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ICIL M. HEP WORTH 



a film pioneer 



The Dawn comes to 
Flicker Alley 



Still a familiar figure in Wardour Street, 
Mr. Cecil Hepworth is a pioneer of British 
Cinema. In his autobiography he has a 
fascinating story to tell. 

They were simpler, sunnier days. 
Hepworth began in the 'showmanship' 
period in the late 'nineties, carrying his 
forty-second films to lecture-halls all over 
the country, where frenzied audiences 
demanded their repetition many times at a 
sitting. From the 'fairground' period he 
helped nurse the cinema to the time of the 
great Hepworth Company at its Walton-on- 
Thames studios. 

To those studios came famous stage 
actors, men of mark in many fields, anxious 
to try the new medium. In those studios 
many 'stars' of yesterday made world-wide 
reputations: Alma Taylor, Chrissie White, 
Gerald Ames, Ronald Colman, Violet 
Hopson, Stewart Rome, names remembered 
with deep affection four decades later. From 
Walton-on-Thames films were dispatched 
in quantity to the world, even to the United 
States before the Hollywood era. 

Conditions, if not primitive, were rudi- 
mentary in the earlier days; the grandiose 
notions of the industry today were un- 
dreamt of; and, most marvellous of all, 
leading actors and actresses played for as 
little as half a guinea a day (including fares), 
and were not averse to doing sorting, filing 
and running errands in their spare time. 

[ please turn to back flap 



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GAME THE DAWN 




CECIL M. HEPWORTH 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

Media History Digital Library 



http://archive.org/details/camedawnmemoriesOOhepw 




Portrait of Cecil Hepworth 



CAME THE DAWN 

Memories of a Film Pioneer 

by 
Cecil M. Hep worth 

Hon. Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, 

of the British Kinemato graph Society 

and of the British Film Academy. 

Chairman, History Committee, British Film Institute 




ILLUSTRATED WITH DRAWINGS BY 
THE AUTHOR 



PHOENIX HOUSE LIMITED 
LONDON 




// may not be reproduced either whole or in part without written permission. 
Application should be made in the first place to Phoenix House. 



Made igji in Great Britain 

Printed at Letchworth by The Garden City Press Limited 

for Phoenix House Limited, 38 William IV Street, 

Charing Cross, London, WC2 

First published igji 



£(, - 00 1 - 250 



PLATES 

After page 
Frontispiece: Portrait of Cecil Hepworth 

The old Polytechnic: The Royal Polytechnic Institution, 
about 1880, showing the diving bell, extreme left, and 
'Wheel of Life' in the Gallery 24 

At Algiers I filmed the solar eclipse of May, 1900 24 

Early 'news-reel': Queen Victoria's Funeral, 1901. King 

Edward VII, hearing the camera, stops the cortege 24 

'Rover,' 'Hepworth Picture Player,' hero of Rescued by 

Rover, with the 'rescued,' 1905 24 

Alma Taylor and Henry Ainley in Iris 56 

Violet Hopson and Henry Ainley in The Outrage 56 

Mary Brough, Frank Stanmore, and (front) Henry 

Edwards, Chrissie White in Simple Simon, 1915 56 

Alma Taylor in Tansy 56 

Alma Taylor in The Forest on the Hill 64 

John MacAndrews and James Garew in Helen of Four Gates 64 

Alma Taylor playing two parts in Anna the Adventuress 80 

Gerald Ames and James Carew in Mr. Justice Raffles 80 

The Funeral of King Edward VII at Windsor 104 

In readiness for Hamlet, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, 
Lady Forbes-Robertson, and on left: Geoffrey Faithfull, 
Cecil Hepworth; on right: Hay Plumb, Bill Saunders 104 

The 1 91 3 Hamlet played at Walton Studios and Lulworth 

Cove 1 04 



After page 

Leslie Henson in Alf*s Button, 1921 104 

Ronald Colman and Alma Taylor in Anna the Adventuress 128 

George Dewhurst in The Tinted Venus 128 

Alma Taylor and Shayle Gardner in Comin' Thro' the 

Rye, at Walton 144 

Another scene from The Rye 144 

Chrissie White and Tom Powers in Barnaby Rudge 160 

Stewart Rome, Warwick Buckland and Violet Hopson in 

The Chimes 160 

Stewart Rome in Barnaby Rudge 1 60 

Harry Royston in Oliver Twist 1 76 

Diesel engines and generators from German submarine 

U20 in engine house at Walton, 1923 176 



CAME THE DAWN 





CHAPTER i 



This is the story of a man whose life was devoted to the making of 
films, but it is not a categorical account of the film industry, 
although the two stories ran parallel for many years. Mine begins 
— as for complement it must — with my birth, in 1874, in a humble 
house in South London, long before films were thought of. But the 
goodness which should go with humility was certainly not mine. 
Not to put too fine a point upon it, I was a thoroughly naughty, 
and very unpleasant, child. 

My father was the dearest and best of men and he was very 
clever. His only fault was a lack of business acumen, and, though 
everybody liked him, I suppose no one expected him to make 
money out of his numerous abilities. He was very diligent and 
worked far into the night when the house was quiet, writing 
articles for various technical papers, mostly photographic, for he 
was an ardent photographer; one of the early workers of the old 
wet-plate process which you never hear of now except as a vague 
memory of the distant past, but it was one of the fertile places in 
which the seeds of the modern 'pictures' first began to germinate. 

Watch him at work when I was about three years old. He had 
an immense camera which he must have picked up at a sale 
somewhere. He set it up in our back yard — we never had a garden 



— and after focussing it he retired to the scullery which must have 
been darkened for the purpose, sensitised the big sheet of glass and 
then placed it all wet in the dark-slide, took it out to the camera 
and made the exposure before the plate got dry. 

When dry-plate photography came to be invented a year or so 
later, he made the plates in large batches at a time and stored 
them for future use. He had a smaller camera by then but he still 
coated upon large glasses and cut them up later, and that 
sometimes left a narrow strip which I won — to experiment with! 
My eyes were just high enough to see over the edge of the table, 
gloating, and longing that there might be a strip of waste for me. 
Once he had a run of bad luck with his diamond and made a 
whole lot of faulty cuts. Then, for the only time in his life, so far 
as I know, he lost his temper. He smashed up all the pieces with 
the back of his diamond, and I burst into a flood of tears. 

Many years later as I sat beside his bed in his last illness we talked 
of things which somehow had never been mentioned between us 
before. I was a grown man by then, married and full of business 
cares, but our talking often concerned my early childhood and 
that is why it crops up in this place. He reminded me of this dry- 
plate episode, and then he told me how utterly ashamed he had 
been when his outburst of temper made me cry. But it wasn't his 
feelings I was crying about — it was the loss of the little strips of 
glass I had been counting upon. 

I told him that one of my very earliest memories was of him 
carrying me up in his arms from floor to floor of a huge windmill. 
He remembered it, too, but was very surprised that I did, for I 
was only eighteen months old. I could remember the strong 
pressure of his arms as he held me tight to him while he climbed 
the ladders, and it was the comfort of those arms that saved me 
from being terrified by the noise and the shuddering and shaking 
of the whole place. 

I remember my first homecoming. I had been sent to stay with 
my grandmama, probably while my sister Dorothy was being 
born — she is fifteen months younger than I — and then, because 
of severe financial stringency at home, I was left to stay there 
for another year or so. 

Grandmama lived in a tall old basement house in Lansdowne 
Road, Clapham. She was one of innumerable sisters; a stream of 
great-aunts who were always floating in and out around her. They 
varied very much but most of them were nice and had quite good 



10 



knees. She also had a husband; a gruff man who said 'Damn. 5 
He seemed to keep in one frightening room, and he had a beard 
and a very red face and he didn't like children. Besides the great- 
aunts there were two ordinary-sized ones who, I gathered, were 
my father's sisters, and there was also an assortment of uncles, 
but only one of them, Uncle Wheldon, lived in the house and he 
was its support and mainstay. He was a very great friend and he 
loved me with all his big heart. Between him and grandmama, and 
sweet Aunt Maud, I had a gloriously happy time. 

Aunt Maud was a very kind and gentle lady, much given to 
high-church religious observances and to painting on china, at 
which she worked professionally and very skilfully. She almost 
always painted saints for the decoration of altar-panels. Once she 
painted me — a peculiar aberration, for by no stretch of imagery 
could I possibly be included in the category. But I loved to watch 
her at work when I went to stay with grandmama. China has to 
be 'baked' after painting. The colours — powder in little glass 
tubes, I remember — are often quite different from what they will 
be when they are baked, and, unless I have forgotten, flesh tint 
was bright blue to start with, which must have made painting 
very difficult. It certainly made the saints look peculiar. It 
intrigued me immensely to see how they changed after cooking — 
and even a sinner might be improved that way! 

This dear old house, with all the happy people in it, was a 
great joy to me whenever I could have the opportunity to go there. 
The only drawback was the black beetles. There were thousands 
of them in the basement kitchen, and if you went down there with 
a candle at night you could hear the gentle scrabble of their feet 
as they hurried away from the light. I was terrified of black 
beetles: I am still. 

But the time came at the end of my first visit, when my mother 
decided she must have me at home. The news was broken to me 
as gently as possible but black despair curled round my heart. 
They carried me home weeping. It must have been a wretched 
disappointment for my parents, although it was natural enough. 
I had scarcely seen them since my babyhood: grandmama's house 
meant everything of home to me. I remember vaguely how 
miserably I blubbered and I think there was in me a flickering of 
regret that I could not put up a little show of filial decency. My 
mother's sorrow was very genuine — I remember that — and I am 
sorry that I was such a little beast. 



II 




37, St. Paul's Crescent, Camden Town 

But I had very little understanding. My mother was, I realise 
now, a good, hard-working and essentially unselfish woman. 
On practically no money she kept our little household going, not 
smoothly certainly, but without the disaster which must often 
have been threatening. She ruled us with the proverbial rod of 
iron and to us children (there was soon a third one, another girl) 
she seemed to be a veritable dragon, to be dodged and hidden 



12 



from whenever we could possibly manage it. All this, of course, 
made dad dearer to us than ever. He never by word or sign took 
our part against her, and indeed I know he was very fond of her, 
but his gentle unspoken love wrapped itself around us and healed 
our little wounds almost before they hurt. 

Saturday night was bath-night for us children. A round flat 
bath, like the lid of a cake tin only bigger, was put down in front 
of the kitchen fire and a mixture of cold and boiling water poured 
into it to a depth of about two inches. Then we three, who had 
been slowly undressing in preparation, stepped into it together 
and sat down, bottoms to the edge and toes together in the middle. 
Then the fun began: the thing was to see who had the blackest 
legs. It was an important point and was carefully and impartially 
considered. I think I generally won that round. That decided, we 
set to work and scrubbed and cleaned one leg each, getting it as 
clean and bright as we possibly could. The contrast between the 
black and the pink one in each of the three sets was a sheer delight 
to all of us. Then, of course, there followed a general cleaning up, 
the usual trouble with the ears and the soap in the eyes and so on, 
but we were soon dried and night-dressed and down in a row at 
mother's knee to say our prayers. 

After we were in bed, I think poor mother had a little rest — 
the first she had had all day — but whether she allowed daddy to 
have any I do not know. I know he had to account for every penny 
he spent and I know he usually sat up writing far into the night, 
for most of the little money we had came from that mysterious 
writing. 

We were living at that time at 37, St. Paul's Crescent, Camden 
Town, in North London. My mother always insisted that the 
address should be given as of Camden Square which she held to be 
much more respectable. It was not the place of my birth for that 
occurred on the other side of London, either at Blackheath or 
Lewisham I think. I cannot be expected to remember the details 
of that event. Our house in St. Paul's Crescent was the last one in 
the road, which terminated abruptly in a coal-yard belonging to 
the railway company. My little bedroom at the side of the house 
overlooked the yard. One night there was one of those curious 
and very unusual thunderstorms in which the lightning seems to 
stand still in the sky for a second or more. My parents had gone to 
an early performance of H. M.S. Pinafore at the Park Theatre, 
Camden Town (now, of course, a picture-house) . I woke in the 



13 



middle of one of those long flashes, took one look at the flood- 
lighted coal-yard, closed my eyes quickly again before the flash 
ended, and kept them closed. I fully realised that the world had 
come to an end — and that my mother and father were out! 

People seldom understand what dreadful things happen to 
children. They say a coward dies a thousand deaths. I died a 
dozen before I was ten years old. My father, among other things, 
was a popular scientific lecturer. He had one lecture on electricity. 
It was a simple lecture, for electricity in those days was a simple 
thing. The lecture needed a number of simple experiments and he 
carried a battery of two or three bichromate cells. Bichromate of 
potash is a considerable poison. He made up a saturated solution, 
mixed it with a proportion of sulphuric acid and kept it in old 
wine bottles. I strolled into his den one afternoon when he had 
gone to lecture, found a wine bottle apparently with a heel-tap 
of wine still in it and tipped it straight into my mouth. I tasted the 
acid and knew instantly what I had done. I knew that I was 
bound to die in a very little while. But do you think I said any- 
thing about it? Not a word. I just waited for the end. This was not 
courage: it was sheer cowardice; I didn't want to get into a row. 
I was very violently sick and that, no doubt, saved my life. One 
of my bilious attacks, they thought, and I did not tell them about 
it until many years afterwards. 

I tell you these things to show that I was brought up in an 
atmosphere of moderated science. It probably had its effect upon 
my future career. 

Once when Uncle Wheldon had been to see us he gave me a 
half-crown. A huge sum; the first half-crown I had ever seen. 
Then from the half-landing overlooking our back yard, my parents 
spotted a hole in the ground filled with water. Charged with this 
misdemeanour I promptly lied and said T never!' The lie was 
brought home to me and my half-crown was confiscated. It was 
an awful punishment. It cramped my career for the rest of my 
life, for I have never been a good liar since. This is a severe 
handicap in trade — even in the film trade. Also the half-crown 
has never been given back to me! 

As I lay awake in my cot one night, in the subdued light of the 
nursery, I looked up at the wall just above my head and saw a 
black mark which I instantly said to myself might be a black 
beetle. Of course I knew it was nothing of the kind, but it gave me 
a nasty turn because if it had been a beetle, it was just where it 



14 



might fall on my face. I knew it was only a hole in the plaster, but 
every time I opened my eyes, there was the sinister black thing 
and I even began to imagine I saw it move. At last I screwed up 
enough courage to settle the question once and for all by touching 
it. I put up my ringer. It was a black beetle; and it did fall on my 
face. 

My mother's great pride — and my despair — was my long 
golden hair which she insisted in doing up into long curls all 
round my head and one prodigious sausagey one right across the 
top from front to back. Then she put me into a black velvet frock 
with white lace cuffs and trimmings and sent me off to a party. 
There I gained notoriety by bowing down so low that my careful 
coiffure fell over the top of my head and touched the floor in front. 
This anecdote would have no value except for the fact that it was 
at this party that I fell in love with a girl in a pink-and-white 
muslin frock. A man's first love affair inevitably sets its mark upon 
him. 

In St. Paul's Crescent, further up where it is a crescent, there 
lived a man whose name was Mr. Belton. He had a peculiar trade. 
He made and sold sheets of sensitised albumenised paper such as 
photographers used to print their cartes-de-visite and cabinet 
portraits upon. I could buy these sheets for ninepence each — not 
often, for ninepence was a lot of money. Then, with old negatives 
begged from dad, and a cheap printing-frame, I could produce 
veritable photographs. 

So there I was, at say four years old, equipped with a tiny but 
basic knowledge of electricity and photography, a film-producer 
in embryo, and with a forgotten love affair to build up the heart 
interest. 

But though my father was without doubt the great vital spirit; 
the mainspring of my future career — the setting, the background, 
the atmosphere, were all provided by the Polytechnic. He and 
that, were the two grand factors which prepared me for my future 
life — and then blind chance tipped me into it. 

The Royal Polytechnic Institution, as it was called, was a 
building in Upper Regent Street, in London's West End. Upon 
that site the present Polytechnic was later built. The old Toly' 
was a wondrous place of delight to the small boys, and even to 
some of the small girls, of Queen Victoria's days. It was opened 
about the time she came to the throne but it languished and died 
several years before her reign came to an end. 



15 



I remember the thrill of joy which went through me every time 
I climbed the half-dozen steps which led up to the great front door: 
the surge of delight as I passed into the wonderful Great Hall and 
sensed the magic of its atmosphere. For in this place were gathered 
together examples of all the latest scientific wonders of the day. 
First, just inside the entrance, was a huge plate-glass static elec- 
tricity machine. Given a boy big enough to turn the handle — it 
was too heavy for my little arm — you could have long sparks of 
miniature lightning at will. At the far end of the Great Hall there 
was an immense induction-coil whose spark, they told me, could 
kill a horse. There was a long narrow lake the whole length of the 
hall, shallow for the most part but deep enough at the far end to 
sink the big diving bell. Right above the lake and along the whole 
length of the hall was slung a tight-rope upon which, at stated 
intervals, an automatic full-size figure of a man would walk from 
end to end. There was a gallery all round this hall and here there 
was a model railway with electric trains which ran 'all by them- 
selves' in a day when there was scarce a real one to be found 
anywhere. And here in this gallery there was a 'wheel-of-life' — a 
cinematograph in embryo. It was a big disc which you could turn 
quite easily and it had narrow slots cut at intervals all round its 
edge. Between these slots, on the other side of the disc, a little 
dancing figure was painted in consecutive stages of movement. 
When you turned the wheel and peeped through the slots at a 
mirror hung a foot or two beyond it you saw the little figure dance 
as though alive. 

For sixpence you could take your seat with a lot of other boys in 
the huge diving bell and be completely submerged. Just below 
your feet there was the surface of the blue water, for the bell was 
open at the bottom, but as it descended the surface of the water 
went down too and you didn't get your school boots even wet. I 
have been told since, but I don't believe it, that the band played 
particularly loudly while the diving bell was going down to 
smother the screams of the drowning people inside it. 

Alongside the Great Hall was the part I liked best of all — the 
theatre. This was a rather complicated mixture of an ordinary 
theatre, with stage and scenery and so on, and a projection theatre 
more elaborate than would be found in any cinema today. The 
operating box ran the whole width of the theatre at dress circle 
level, and with a galleryful of seats above it, I think, though I 
can't be sure about that. In the operating box there were about 



16 





Above : The Choreutoscope Movement 
Below : Modern Projector Movement 

fifteen magic-lanterns of all sorts and sizes, but all worked by 
limelight. I think some of the lantern slides were photographic, 
though of that I cannot be sure, but the majority of them were 
hand-painted and many were of great size, eight or ten inches 
in diameter. There were any number of trick slides too, of 
the Sleeping Man Swallowing Rat description, and revolving 
geometrical patterns which gave some very fine effects upon the 
screen. Also there was a Beale's 'Choreutoscope,' a curiously 
interesting anticipation of a modern cinematograph though not 
the least like it in effect. It had a cut-out stencil of a skeleton 



17 



figure in about a dozen different positions which changed instan- 
taneously from one to another. The interesting thing about it now 
is that the means of that quick movement was practically the same 
as the ' Maltese cross' movement of a modern film projector. If 
you can imagine a Maltese cross straightened out into a line with 
an ordinary pin wheel working it, and at the same time closing 
and opening a very rapid shutter, you will understand the 
'Choreutoscope,' which was showing its crude pictures on the 
screen at the 'Poly' ten or fifteen years before anyone had a film to 
show. For it was in or about 1878 or 1879 when I saw it and it had 
been showing long before that. 

It was intermittent movement which made the cinematograph 
possible. Many films had been made years before any of them 
could be projected on a screen. Here was the intermittent move- 
ment almost exactly as it is used today — and everybody over- 
looked it! 

The Polytechnic stage was small but very well equipped for 
those days — no electric light, of course, but plenty of gas, Argand 
burners and so on, and limelight in the wings and perches. There 
were plenty of trap-doors including a star-trap through which a 
man could be shot up from below on to the stage and land on his 
feet on the spot he had just come through. 'Pepper's Ghost' was 
born in this theatre and later that very clever ghost illusion 
invented by J. J. Walker, the organ builder. 

In this theatre there were daily lantern lectures, mildly 
educational but always entertaining, by such lecturers as B. J. 
Maiden, Professor Pepper and my own father, T. C. Hep worth, 
who were on the regular staff of the 'Poly.' And that is how it is 
that I was so frequently there and was able to gain an insight into 
the wonders of the operating box and the delights of the stage and 
all its contraptions behind and below. My litde mind became 
stored and almost clogged with details which were to serve me 
wondrously well in after years. 

The crowning tragedy of my childhood was on the day when 
the Polytechnic was closed for ever and I could draw no further 
upon its riches. 

It was about this time that the family migrated to a slightly 
larger house at 32, Gantelowes Road in the same neigh- 
bourhood. Here, fired with the stage enthusiasm inspired by the 
'Poly,' we children fitted up the nursery as a theatre. There was a 
drop curtain of the proper roll-up-from-the-bottom type (not your 



18 



modern drapery which flies up solid into the roof), side wings, gas 
footlights — by rubber tube from the burner over the mantelpiece 
—and a very moderate store of home-made scenery which, 
Shakespeare-like, 'played many parts.' The curtain and scenery 
were painted on unbleached calico at a penny three-farthings a 
yard, and the whole outfit could be taken down in a few minutes 
and stored away, according to parental decree. 

Our repertory varied from nursery stories to such little things 
as Macbeth — in which Dorothy played Lady to my lead and 
Effie had the whole of the rest of the cast to herself. Imagine the 
effect upon grown-ups of hearing a little girl of five lisping the 
immortal lines: — 

*I have given suck and know how tender 'tis 
To love the babe that milks me ' 

I am told I was a fierce stage-manager, insisting upon letter 
perfection and strict attention to detail. Those who worked with 
me in later years were inclined to make the same complaint. 

Alternating with the theatrical phase there was a deeply 
religious period in which Church took the place of stage and I, as 
parson, read all the prayers of the English Church service and 
insisted upon the correct responses in the proper places. We spent 
very many hours upon our knees. My sisters especially disliked 
the litany, but as that was my favourite they had to go through 
with it. 

As a kind of moral (not too moral) background to all this there 
was the deadly governess period. The poor, wretched governesses 
came one at a time, saw, and were conquered. It was our part, 
not deliberately conceived but tacitly understood and immediately 
adopted, to make their lives miserable and get rid of them as 
quickly as possible. I remember one incident which, though far 
worse than the others, was typical of all of them. The victim was a 
poor old thing of uncertain age, poor health and very weak eyes. 
Gentle and helpless she was, yet in some now forgotten way she 
incurred our relentless wrath. It was I who invented and carried 
out the diabolical scheme of revenge which put an end to her 
regime and gained me a thoroughly deserved thrashing. 

I stole up to her room when she was out and painted a deep 
ring of non-drying coal-tar all round the top edge of a private but 
humble article of bedroom furniture. 

After that, the deluge! I was seated by my father at his study 



19 




J2, Cantelowes Road, Camden Square 



20 



table as he worked, when the door literally burst open and framed 
that weak governess, now a quivering tower of rage, spluttering 
out her wrath and the story of her woe. She had on a tight petti- 
coat bodice of scarlet, a very short skirt and long thin naked arms 
in one of which she brandished the offending article with most of 
the tar still upon it: her lips quivering, her poor weak eyes full of 
hot tears. It was a pitiful, horribly comical sight. I did not dare 
glance at my father. I do not know how far his quick sense of 
humour fought with his pity and anger. And if anyone thinks I 
triumphed in my sorry revenge I would like to punch his head. I 
believe I almost enjoyed my thrashing. 




21 




CHAPTER 2 

After the closing of the Polytechnic my father took up itinerant 
lecturing on several popular scientific subjects. This involved a 
great deal of preparatory work which had a considerable bearing 
on my unofficial education. It began each season with the sending 
out of large numbers of circulars giving the syllabus of each of 
some fifteen or twenty lectures, from 'A Trap to Catch a Sunbeam' 
(meaning a camera), Electricity, Telephony, the Phonograph — 
all as unknown to the average audience then as atomic fission is 
now — to 'The Footprints of Charles Dickens' and, very much 
later, 'The Rontgen Rays' and the Cathode Rays of Crook es. 
It does not need much imagination to visualise the effect of all this 
on the receptive, adolescent mind of the growing boy. Then add 
to it the fact that, in a little while, that boy was called in from time 
to time — glorious times! — actually to operate the biunial lime- 
light lantern with which the lectures were illustrated. Oxygen gas 
had to be generated and stored in a huge gas-bag and transported 
to the scene of action, with the pressure boards, the big double- 
lantern, the box of slides and the lantern screen. 

These days of wonderful adventure were rudely shot through 
by the necessity of going to school, which followed naturally upon 
the sack of the governesses. School seemed to be a horribly un- 
necessary interruption to an education which was going along 
famously and developing exactly as one wished. Natural laziness, 
mixed with inarticulate resentment, led inevitably to the almost 
complete neglect of opportunities, and only science lessons and 
drawing produced any appreciable results. 

But it was in my first school — Shaw's, in the Camden Road — 



22 



that 1 met my one and only real school chum, a wild Irish boy 
named Jim Flanagan. We were always together and our talks 
were of all sorts of things; chiefly girls, but that was later on. It 
was at this school that I first became conscious of my inveterate 
and incurable shyness which was to be one of the banes of my 
existence. I was too shy and nervous to go into the playground with 
the other boys and used to skulk in the empty classroom, preten- 
ding to study. This was the negative side of my education. It's a 
pity I wasn't driven out to play; I should have made a better 
film-producer afterwards. 

From about this time the family seems to have quieted down 
to a comparatively settled existence. It made another move, this 
time to 45, St. Augustine's Road, still a little nearer to the coveted 
Camden Square, and meanwhile increased its numbers — after a 
long interval — by another girl and a boy. The boy, being the last 
of the line, was so terribly spoiled by his doting mother that all 
the others disliked him intensely and he ultimately went abroad 
and after a few letters, disappeared and could never be traced. 
The rest of us, including the youngest girl, Kitty, are all very good 
friends after our turbulent youth and meet very happily whenever 
we can. 

Jim Flanagan's widowed mother had a house a little larger than 
ours and actually in Camden Square. That may have prompted 
her to like to be known as Mrs. O'Flanagan, for which there 
appeared to be no other justification. With this little touch of 
pardonable pride she was a kind and very pleasant lady, and she 
had a very nice little girl, named Nita, with whom brother Jim 
quarrelled and fought most happily. It is possible that they even 
had a bathroom in their big house, but of that I never heard. Nice 
people were careful not to mention such things to their less 
affluent neighbours. 

The still rather unpleasant youth who is the centre figure of this 
story was moved to a new school at Hillmartin Crescent, Jim 
Flanagan remaining behind at the old one. Here again, 'play- 
ground funk' seems to have been his principal characteristic, 
coupled with most assiduous inattention to lessons. He had two 
slight excuses: hopeless at arithmetic, 'figure-blind' as some people 
are tone-deaf, and with an all-absorbing home interest in 'inven- 
tions,' photography, electricity and heaven knows what besides. 
His mother complained that it was almost impossible to get him 
in to meals or to bed or anything. His homework was the despair 



23 



of his every schoolmaster. There was one school interest however. 
With another boy, named Hutchinson, he started a school 
magazine, printed by lithography, of all things! A lithographic 
press came from father's den and these two blessed infants wrote 
backwards and made drawings upon the stone and printed the 
magazine in genuine printer's ink! 

My father had become the editor and, I think, part owner, of 
a languishing weekly journal called the Photographic News, and I 
joined the 'staff' at a salary of five shillings a week and my keep. 
I held that job down — on those terms — for four years but I had 
to find other means to augment my salary. I did what I could on 
the advertising side, collecting overdue accounts on commission 
and sometimes getting in new advertisers. I wrote articles and 
illustrated them in pen-and-ink, and got paid seven shillings and 
sixpence a column — half the usual rate — and all the time I saved 
and saved every penny I could get. 

But I had my small extravagances. On the left-hand side of 
Peckham Rye as you face south, there is, or there was then, a very 
appetising little shop where they sold lovely beef-steak puddings, 
hot, at fourpence each. Several of my customers from whom I 
tried to collect accounts lived in this neighbourhood and there 
was one in particular who was a very sluggish payer and I used to 
have to call upon him three or four times for every once I collected 
any cash. When I succeeded I used to turn into this little shop and 
celebrate with a beef-steak pudding, hot. And if I failed I some- 
times had a hot pudding, then, to comfort me. 

There was a small chemist's shop by the railway bridge at 
Blackheath kept by people by the name of Butcher. I liked going 
there, not merely because the collection of the money was easier 
but principally because I liked to see them growing steadily bigger, 
a little bigger every time I went there. There were two or three 
brothers and a father I think, and I suppose they must have had 
between them that curious flair for business which makes a few 
people always choose the right path and be led on to prosperity. 
Their name became one of the biggest in the photographic trade 
before I was very much older and they were among the first 
people to take a tentative interest in the new-fangled Living 
Photographs when that strange adventure sprang itself upon the 
world. Even now, the name of Butcher has an important place in 
the industry of the moving pictures. 

In the middle of 189 1 when the Hep worth family were spending 



24 



! 



;*:■ 




teuo 



- 



I 

8P 






Of 




a; 






their summer holiday at Deal as usual, we struck up a friendship 
with the Macintosh family and among them was a very pretty 
little girl named Blanche who, very much later, became chief 
scenario writer to the Hepworth firm, makers of cinematograph 
films, which up to that date had not yet been invented. It was at 
Deal and at this time that I had my first self-taught lessons in 
sailing — afterwards the great passion of my life. I had had an 
early inoculation when, as a very small boy, I sailed across the 
Solent from Newtown to Lymington in the cutter Mary (Skipper, 
Fleuss, of diving-dress fame) with my father and mother. There 
was a lovely breeze and mother lay full length in the lee scuppers 
— a picture of perfect bliss. We were delayed at Lymington with a 
fouled anchor which took hours to clear and it was dark by the 
time we got outside. Then it fell a dead calm and my father and 
friend Fleuss each took an oar and gave me the tiller, to my 
unbounded joy. Whether the skipper gave me the wrong light to 
steer for or whether I got it mixed up with another one half-way 
across I do not know, but when we reached the island at dead of 
night we learned from a coastguard tramping along the beach 
that we had been swept by the tide far below our proper place 
and could do nothing until the tide turned again. I wanted to stay 
aboard and see the adventure out, but mother and I were put 
ashore and the coastguard saw us home. That was the beginning: 
that was when the lovely poison entered my blood stream. 

When, years later, at Deal mother bought herself a dinghy for 
me to row her about in, I saw to it that a mast and sail and rudder 
were included in the bargain. It was a terrible old boat, with a 
length scarcely in excess of its breadth, like some of the old ladies 
standing around, and we always called it 'she.' Mother, being 
musical, also called it the Vivace which was hopelessly unsuitable; 
Largo would have been much more appropriate. One day I 
offered to sail the pater and his brother Wheldon to Pegwell Bay 
for the day. We had the flood tide and a fair breeze from the south 
and did the passage comfortably. 

I was relying upon the ebb tide to bring us home as the Vivace was 
very little good on the wind. But we hadn't been very long on the 
return journey when we found the breeze had freshened very much 
and being now against the tide was knocking up a considerable 
jobble. Soon we began to take in a fair amount of water. I asked 
Uncle Wheldon, being the heavier, to sit on the floor to balance 
us better, which he obediently did though it was three inches deep 



25 



in water before he sat down and much deeper afterwards. Soon I 
saw we'd never make it and I said I thought we ought to turn and 
run for Ramsgate. I don't know whether they were scared, for if 
they were they didn't show it. They quietly agreed, feeling, I 
suppose, that if I didn't know what I was about they didn't either. 
So I managed to put her about, thanking heaven I did not have to 
gybe. I allowed for the tidal outrush from Pegwell Bay and we 
drove into Ramsgate Harbour in great style. 

At the big electrical exhibition held at the Crystal Palace in 
1892, my father and Professor Ambrose Fleming (Thermionic 
Fleming — we called him the 'cough-drop') gave several illustrated 
lectures in the theatre there. I worked the electric lantern for them. 
It was a beast. The lamp, which was supposed to be automatic, 
kept going out and had to be started again, in the dark, by 
twiddling the nearly red-hot knob between finger and thumb. I 
used to wake up in the night and go blundering around in my 
dark bedroom, trying to find the lantern which I had dreamed had 
just gone out again. 

This, and the many opportunities of wandering about the show 
and talking to the exhibitors, had a very important effect upon 
my career as I will show. 

In July, 1893, Birt Acres, who afterwards came into my life 
quite a lot, told me he had been invited to give a show of some 
films that he had made, at Marlborough House at the wedding of 
the Duke of York to Princess Mary of Teck. At that time I had 
never heard of 'films' and could only guess what he was talking 
about, but I must have surmised that some kind of lantern was 
involved and that would have been enough for me. He was very 
excited, naturally, and admitted that, while he was competent 
to work the projector, he would be very glad if I would come along 
and look after the electric lamp. I willingly agreed and we duly 
arrived at Marlborough House with the gear, projector, lamp, 
resistance and wire and all the rest of it. The whole place was 
gaily decorated and there was a considerable air of fuss and 
tension. Birt Acres was a man who perspired easily. He fully lived 
up to his reputation in that respect. We didn't have any real 
difficulty in obtaining the few things we wanted and we set the 
whole apparatus up in a sort of tent which was an annex to the 
room where the guests were to assemble for the show. 

I remember being mildly surprised when the Prince of Wales 



26 



— afterwards King Edward VII — came over and talked to us 
when we were getting the show ready in this kind of small ante- 
room. He seemed to speak with a fairly strong German accent. 
But I do not remember being greatly impressed with the pictures. 
Probably I was a bit excited too, and was thinking far more of 
keeping the light burning properly than of looking to see what the 
pictures were like. One of them did startle me, though: it was a 
picture of a great wave rushing into the mouth of a cave and 
breaking into clouds of spray. 

Looking back, it seems very curious to me that a subject to 
which I was destined to dedicate all my future life should make 
so littie first impression on me. I suppose I was so obsessed with 
the behaviour of the arc-lamp that I paid no real attention to the 
pictures: yet at that very early date they must have been 'a dainty 
dish to set before a king.' It is true that Friese Greene had had 
many ideas and at least one master-patent before that time but I 
cannot learn that he ever actually produced anything to which 
that poetic description could be applied. 

Some twelve years later when I read that the brothers Wright 
in America had actually lifted off the ground in a flying machine 
I was intensely excited, though that had no effect upon my 
future life except for one little incident. My father had some time 
previously bequeathed to me the writing of the science notes for 
a monthly journal and I reported, perhaps glowingly, this most 
important adventure as it seemed to me. The editor asked me to 
discontinue the column. He may have thought that 'flying' — till 
then unheard of — was too fanciful and flippant for a staid and 
solemn journal, or it may have been only that my work generally 
was not up to his standard. I shall never know; but I got the sack 
from that job. 




27 




CHAPTER 3 

On my twenty-first birthday in 1895 the dear old pater 
gave me a little lathe which he had managed to stump up for, 
secondhand. He held, rather unsoundly, that if I mastered the art 
of metal turning I never need be without a job. It must have 
strained resources very badly but it was a great joy to me and the 
beginning of all sorts of things. Looking back, it does seem to me 
that Fate had a very clear notion from the beginning of what she 
intended to do with me and had all the time been steadily pushing 
me along in the selected direction. If I have told the story fairly, 
that general trend should have become apparent to the reader also. 

My first camera was one I made for myself when I was a small 
boy at a cost of tenpence — ninepence for wood and a penny for a 
magnifying-glass which I mounted in a cardboard tube for a lens. 
I took a successful photograph with it from the nursery window. 
The first cinematograph camera I ever had my hands upon was 
one made by Prestwich and owned by Thomas R. Dallmeyer. 
He was a great chum of my father's, and those two, with Thomas 
Bedding, the Three Thomases, were dubbed the Three Musket- 
eers of photography. Dallmeyer asked me to go with him and film 
the Diamond Jubilee in 1897, but the camera jammed at the 
critical moment and I failed. Whether this was my fault or its, I 
do not know, but I used those cameras for many years afterwards 
and had no trouble with them. 

But between the coming of my lathe and the incident of the 
Diamond Jubilee there were a couple of years which were 
pregnant with many things that, all unknown to me, were to have 
a profound influence upon my subsequent film-life. I worried 



28 



about that red-hot electric lamp at the Crystal Palace exhibition. 
Being used to limelight which required manual attention every 
thirty or forty seconds, I couldn't see why an electric lamp, used 
for a similar purpose, shouldn't be similarly trimmed by hand. 
I determined that as soon as I had sufficient dexterity I would 
make a hand-feed lamp for use in magic or optical lanterns. I did 
in fact design and make and patent 1 such an arc-lamp exactly 
three months after I received the lathe and before I had attained 
sufficient dexterity to make it decently, but it worked and it was 
good enough to serve as a model for others to work from. Soon it 
was put on the market by Ross, the opticians, and presently the 
makers of the finest cinematograph projectors. 

Then my father and I went to Olympia and saw among other 
things a little side show of 'Living Photographs' by R. W. Paul, 
who was projecting through a translucent screen some films made 
by Edison for his peep-show Kinetoscope. This was a modern 
miracle I shall never forget. We had somehow missed the first 
showing, several months earlier, of Lumiere's 'Living Photo- 
graphs' at the New Polytechnic in February, 1896, and I hadn't 
even read about it, so I was completely unprepared and immensely 
impressed, and my first reaction was that here was a chance to 
sell my electric lamp. With a sudden access of unusual business 
enterprise I pushed through the crowd and into the operating 
room behind the screen and tackled Paul about it. He said I could 
come and see him at his office at 44, Hatton Garden in the City. 
I went there and found that his work-room was at the very top of 
a tall building and I stumbled up the narrow staircase, trying not 
to tread upon the dozen or more sleeping Polish and Armenian 
Jews who had been waiting there for days and nights for delivery 
of 'Animatographs,' as Paul's machines were called. And there at 
the top was Paul himself, perspiring freely and cranking away 
at his big clumsy machines in the hopeless endeavour to run them 
in and make them usable by the weaker brethren outside. Robert 
Paul later became one of my best and firmest friends, and on this 
occasion he purchased half a dozen of my lamps at a profit of 
over a pound apiece and thus laid the foundation of my fortune. 

Thus, at about 21 years old, was I caught in the outer fringe of 
the film-net that Fate was spreading and baiting for me, but even 
then I did not know that I was snared. 

It was then that in my working hours — always to be distinguished 



Patent No. 11,892. June 19th, 1895. 



29 



from the hours when I was working — I was taking care of an 
office in Dashwood House in the City for a Dutchman named 
Noppen, who was trying to sell reflex cameras, I think he had 
something else on his mind that took up very much more of his 
attention than did his business. I had come upon him when I was 
trying to sell advertising space for the Photographic News. One 
morning, early, I found him anxiously scratching round London 
searching for someone to take his place while he went back to 
Holland 'on business. 5 I stood by him, as a fellow should when 
another is in distress, and I never left him until late in the 
evening he engaged me at thirty shillings a week, to look after 
things in his absence. Those business trips to Holland took place 
with increasing frequency and then one day he never came back. 
I sold the cameras as well as I could and paid the rent and my 
salary out of the proceeds, and when that source came to an end, I 
closed the office and went home. 

Well, now I must either sink or swim. Either I must be prepared 
to invest my poor savings or hang on to them and look for another 
job. Investment was decided upon and my young cousin, Monty 
Wicks, agreed to come in with me for a small wage and the lark 
of the thing. Early in 1897, we t0 °k a shop in Cecil Court, Charing 
Cross Road, and set up there to work an agency we secured for 
the sale of cameras and dry-plates. We enjoyed the lark and 
waited for custom — which never came. 

I was still being bitten by the thought of those film pictures of 
Robert Paul's, and it was at some time during the first months at 
Cecil Court that I discovered the possibility of buying an experi- 
mental film-projector from a man named Bonn in High Holborn. 
I bought it for a pound, modified it and coupled it to my existing 
lantern, and thus I had a means of projecting films. 

A kinematograph projector is in essence nothing but an 
ordinary optical or magic lantern with a mechanism fitted in front 
in place of the slide carrier. The film in fact takes the place of the 
slide and the mechanism is merely a contraption to pull it through 
the optical system intermittently and at sufficient speed. Just in case 
this should come to the notice of anyone who does not already 
know it, that speed is one foot or sixteen 'frames' a second for 
silent films. It is faster still for sound pictures. 

The mechanism I bought from Bonn was just this movement 
complete with its objective lens. I made a simple alteration to my 
lantern, fitting its objective lens (for the slides) into a sliding 



30 



platform, on the other end of which I attached the film mechan- 
ism. Now I could at any moment change over in a second from 
lantern slides to 'living pictures' or vice versa by merely sliding 
the platform across. 

Paul had some 'throw-outs/ cheap films, in a junk basket. I 
bought one or two for four shillings each. We now had a means of 
producing a film show in our cellar. Each film ran for forty 
seconds. 

Remember my early life: photography — limelight — lantern 
shows — lectures. The next step was obvious and inevitable. I had 
some hundreds of lantern slides from my own negatives accumu- 
lated over several years. What more natural than that they should 
be grouped into a few short series having a 'story content,' be 
fertilised by suitable films from the said junk basket, built up with 
lecture and music and taken all over the country to halls where 
many in the audience had never seen a living photograph in their 
lives before. 

My father was still travelling with his several lectures to various 
halls about the country but things had changed a little. He 
seldom travelled his big biunial lantern and all the accessories but 
had to be content with carrying a box of slides under his arm and 
trusting to local showmanship to see him through. He never 
grumbled and I did not think of it at the time, but I expect now 
that fees were shrinking in value and shortage of cloth meant 
cutting his coat to fit. In any case lantern shows would not have 
stood up long against moving pictures, though many of the slides 
were very beautiful and there are others now more beautiful still 
in the hands of really clever amateur photographers. 

Other things were changing their pattern too. It ceased to be 
necessary to travel oxygen-making plant and heavy gas-bags, for 
both gases could be bought and carried in comparatively small 
cylinders. That is what I used and even with film-showing 
apparatus my luggage was smaller than his used to be. As to 
subject matter, I remember one little series which always went 
down very well indeed. It was called The Storm and consisted of 
half a dozen slides and one forty-foot film. My sister Effie was a 
very good pianist and she travelled with me on most of these 
jaunts. The sequence opened with a calm and peaceful picture of 
sea and sky. Soft and gentle music (Schumann, I think). That 
changed to another seascape, though the clouds looked a little 
more interesting, and the music quickened a bit. At each change 



3i 



the inevitability of a coming gale became more insistent and the 
music more threatening; until the storm broke with an exciting 
film of dashing waves bursting into the entrance of a cave, with 
wild music (by Jensen, I think) . 

I did the commentary, of course, as well as working the lantern 
and films. The influence of my father kept cropping up every- 
where. I must have followed his technique somehow in getting 
the engagements for these shows, though I cannot quite remember 
what I did. I remember as a child helping, with the rest of the 
family, to fold up circulars and putting them into envelopes 
addressed to mechanics' institutes and all sorts of likely halls and 
societies and I suppose I must have done something of the same 
in my own case, though I am not clear how I found the addresses. 
However that may be, we went to many halls and with only one 
exception we met with invariable success. That was somewhere up 
in the north of Lancashire where the people spoke with a very 
funny accent. I couldn't understand them and I like to think that 
my failure there was only because they couldn't understand me. 

One of the essential conditions of good showmanship in a show 
of this kind is a means of rapidly changing over from lantern-slide 
to film without noticeable interval but that was not beyond the 
limits of my mechanical ability. I have never in my life before or 
since witnessed such intense enthusiasm as these short, crude films 
evoked in audiences who saw films for the first time. At one hall, 
at Halstead in Essex, we had fifteen re-engagements, counting the 
repeats when we were asked to stay over for a second showing on 
the following day, which of course were actual repetitions of the 
same programme. The re-engagements strained our resources 
rather badly for then we were expected to supply new material. 

But if the films were terrible faulty, as they certainly were, the 
projector was litde better than a nightmare. I soon had to do 
something about it. Charles Urban had just come over from 
America bringing with him a new projector mechanism called 
the 'Bioscope,' which was of good and substantial design. It was 
reputed to be flickerless, which it was — because it had no shutter! 
But a shutter is absolutely necessary in order to cover the momen- 
tary change from one 'frame' to the next. The black moment on 
the screen, sixteen times a second, causes the distressing flicker. It 
is obviated in modern practice by having two or three extra 
unnecessary blades to the shutter. The consequent forty-eight or 
sixty-four interruptions are too many to be seen and the picture 



32 



appears to be flickerless. But without any shutter at all the 'rain* 
on the screen is far worse than any flicker — the whole idea was a 
bad mistake. I bought one of these otherwise excellent mechan- 
isms, fitted it with a shutter, a 'gate' which did not scratch the 
films, and a 'take-up' to rewind them as they came from the 
machine, instead of letting them fall into a basket or on to the 
floor, which was the very reprehensible custom of the time. Then 
I adapted the machine to my change-over device and I had a good 
and reliable apparatus. 

But though my first attempts at the travelling show business 
consisted of half a dozen forty-foot films from Paul's junk basket, 
plus a little music and a hundred or so lantern-slides, it required 
considerable ingenuity to spin that material out to an evening's 
entertainment. I showed the films forwards in the ordinary way 
and then showed some of them backwards. I stopped them in the 
middle and argued with them; called out to the little girl who was 
standing in the forefront of the picture to stand aside which she 
immediately did. That required careful timing but was very 
effective. But with it all I very soon found I must have more films 
and better ones. 

So I collected from Fuerst Brothers, in Dashwood House, some 
Lumiere films, and some others from Paul. There is a little story 
that I have told so often that I have almost come to believe it. 
Maybe it belongs to the si non e vero class: I will admit that it is 
perhaps a little exaggerated. I was ready to begin my show in a 
crowded hall built beneath a chapel. I do not know its denomina- 
tion and that doesn't matter. The apparatus was set up, as was 
quite usual in those days, in the very middle of the audience, 
quite regardless of fire risk or panic. Everything was ready to 
make a start when the pastor came and sat down beside me. He 
said that, of course, he was quite certain that there would be 
nothing in my programme which could possibly be offensive to 
any of the pure young people who formed the majority of his 
congregation, but, as the pastor of his little flock and merely as a 
matter of form, he would ask me to show him a list of my titles. I 
handed it to him and watched him reading slowly down and 
nodding approval until he suddenly frowned and said he couldn't 
possibly allow a vulgar music-hall actress to be shown in his hall. 
It was my chef d'oeuvre, a beautifully hand-coloured film of Loie 
Fuller in her famous Serpentine Dance. It was completely 
innocuous, and I told him so with some heat. He was adamant and 



33 



absolutely insisted that the show must be abandoned altogether if, 
as I had told him, the film could not be omitted. For the unfortu- 
nate picture, besides being the best of my series, was for that very 
reason occupying the place of honour as the last but one on my 
first reel. There was no time to cut it out; no chance to bypass it, 
for I felt quite certain that if I attempted to run it through with 
my hand over the lens, the pure young persons all around me 
would protest with anything but their expected docility. So, 
feeling rather like Abraham going up the mountain with his son 
for a sacrifice, I proceeded with the show and hoped against hope 
for the best. 

Then, just before I came to the fatal film I had a brainwave: 
I announced it as Salome Dancing Before Herod and everyone was 
delighted — especially the parson! He said in his nice little speech 
at the end that he thought it was a particularly pleasant idea to 
introduce a little touch of Bible history into an otherwise wholly 
secular programme. And then he added that he had had no idea 
that the 'Cheenimartograrph' had been invented so long ago! 

Talking of fire risk, I was one of the first to point out the danger 
of using celluloid in a lantern without proper precautions. This 
was in a weekly article I was writing for the Amateur Photographer. 
A large firm of photographic dealers sent a letter to the editor in 
which they claimed that celluloid was no more inflammable than 
paper. Whereupon I experimented: I put pieces of paper and 
pieces of celluloid in my projector in turn and noted carefully the 
number of seconds which each took to ignite. I published the 
results. The firm notified my editor that if he valued their ad- 
vertisements he would be well advised to get rid of this contributor. 
The editor notified me, regretting that he had no alternative but 
to take the hint. Thus I got the sack from that job. 

There occurred about this time, 1897-8, a rather strange 
interlude which I cannot place in exact order of date. This was 
the incursion into the incipient cinematograph world of Messieurs 
Lever and Nestle — surely an odd combination of soap and Swiss 
milk — to exploit the possibilities of the film for advertisement 
purposes. The impact was a big one for those days, for they 
purchased no less than twelve complete Lumiere projection outfits 
for a start. Each consisted of a limelight lantern together with all 
its accessories, a condenser which was a large spherical bottle of 
water, a Lumiere mechanism, being camera, printer and projector 
in one, and a suitable objective lens, all mounted on a strong 



34 



wooden stand. Their operator and general manager for film 
purposes was a man named Spencer Clarke who was my contact 
in the matter, though where I came in I cannot at all remember. 
In my recollection it feels as if the whole fantastic outfit burst upon 




me in a day and dropped out of my life again a few weeks later, 
though I seem to have travelled about with Spencer Clarke quite 
a lot in the meantime. And I have in my possession now two 
Lumiere mechanisms which, I think, can only have come to me 
somehow through that connection. It is certainly very strange 
that two such important businesses should have joined hands and 
plunged together into the almost completely undeveloped sphere 
of the 'pictures' — and plunged in such a big way too — apparendy 
without any idea of what they meant to do about it. They faded 
out just as quiedy as they came in and I never heard another 
word of them. 

It was during our tenancy of the shop in Cecil Court that I 
conceived the idea of adding to the interest and value of a film 
show by improving the presentation of the films — setting the 
picture in a coloured frame or similar device on the principle 
that a jewel is improved by setting it in a splended mount. It 
must be remembered that although there were a larger number 
of films available they were all of about the same length and took 
a little under one minute of running time. I built up a sort of 
multiple projector — four machines, two above and two below — 
each with its own arc-lamp and all converging upon the same 
screen. One projected the film, another threw around it by 



35 



lantern slide a brightly coloured proscenium; a third showed the 
title of the picture just underneath and the fourth had another 
film ready to dissolve from the first when it was nearing its end. 
This was probably the first time that titles had been associated 
with films and the last for a long while until tides came into 
general use some years later. 

At the big Alhambra music-hall in Leicester Square, R. W. 
Paul was giving his film show by back-projection through a 
transparent screen from a little cubby hole at the very back of the 
stage. This device of ours was supposed to improve upon it. So we 
invited Alhambra impresario, Alfred Moul, to come down into 
our cellar and have a demonstration. He wasn't very much 
impressed. He said it was always the subject, not the presentation, 
that mattered. Subject, subject, subject he kept on saying. And 
he was dead right. The only thing that really matters is the 
subject; that is the story: it has been dead right ever since. If the 
story does not ring true, neither artists nor scenery nor colour — 
nothing can save it. 

I was writing at the time for the Photographic Dealer, whose 
editor was my associate, Arthur C. Brookes, and on the adver- 
tising staff of the paper was J. Brooke- Wilkinson, who afterwards 
became one of my very dearest friends. Arthur Brookes invited me 
to give a film show in a Congregational chapel in which he was 
interested. I set up my apparatus in the centre of the front row of 
the gallery and got to work. About half-way through, I became 
aware that the 'take-up' was not working and that, while much 
of the film as it came out of the machine was sliding over the 
gallery-rail into the hall below, the rest of it was accumulating 
round my legs. Realising the danger that a spark from the lime- 
light might at any moment drop upon it, I instantly extinguished 
the light and began in the dark to wind up the loose film. Brookes 
was at the back of the gallery and he kept calling out in a loud 
stage-whisper, 'Tell Cecil not to strike a match— don't strike a 
match — ' I was feverishly trying to continue my lecture while 
hauling in the film from below, hand over hand, when the heavy 
brass spool which should have been winding it up, fell off its 
spindle into the body of the hall. I whispered to a small boy to go 
down and retrieve it and when he brought it back he reported 
that it had cut two good tramlines on the bald head of an old 
gentleman, who was very annoyed and intended to apply for 
damages as soon as the show was over. 



36 






It will no doubt have been realised that a great many important 
things had all this while — and for some time before I impinged 
upon it — been happening in the growing industry. They are not 
mentioned here, not because it is not recognised how very impor- 
tant they are, but because this writing has no pretension to be a 
record, or in any sense a history, of cinematography but merely 
an account of the doings of one man connected with it. Moreover, 
it is very incomplete and often wrong in chronological order, for 
it is based upon memory and generally without the support of any 
archives. 

Here, then, we come to the end of what may be called the 
'showmanship' side of this personal history, for though the showing 
of films continued to the end to be occasional and sporadic events 
in my life, the main interest now shifts to the actual photography 
of them. 




37 



CHAPTER 4 

The new period begins with the coming to Cecil Court of the 
great Charles Urban to see what I had done to his 'flickerless 
Bioscope' projector. He was sufficiently impressed to commission 
me to alter several of his mechanisms as I had altered mine, and 
after a little while he offered me five pounds a week to go over to 
his place and work for him there. I promptly accepted on con- 
dition that he found a position for cousin Monty Wicks, too, and 
we shut up and went. And so the trap closed upon me and never 
again was there a chance to escape. 

It is not to be assumed from this that there was any desire 
to escape. On the contrary there was then, and there still is, so 
much fascination about the film industry that practically no one 
being in, has ever voluntarily come out again. But we are a race 
of inveterate grumblers and it is considered the proper thing to 
curse the industry and stay put. I never had the slightest inclina- 
tion to get out. 

Maguire & Baucus of Warwick Court, Holborn, were our new 
masters with Charles Urban as manager. I do not remember 
meeting Maguire, but Baucus I remember well as one of those 
urbane and very nice Americans whom you feel you can absolutely 
trust. The style of the firm was shortly changed to the Warwick 
Trading Company Ltd., with Charles Urban as managing 
director. My first job in connection with it was to film the Oxford 
and Cambridge boat-race of March, 1898, which I did from the 
top of a factory building giving a long view of the course and 
consequently a very distant view of the boats. Tanoraming , the 
camera was first used a long time later. Then, according to 
instructions, I proceeded, as the policemen say, to Alfred Wrench's 
shop at 50, Gray's Inn Road (Lanterns and Accessories), and in 
the cellar there I developed the negative, using Wrench's primi- 
tive outfit. This consisted of a metal frame, carrying a number of 
upright pins on which the film could be wound spiral-wise — in 



38 



the dark-room, of course — and subsequently immersed in the 
developer in a suitable dish and then rinsed and fixed in the same 
way. So I made my first film ever, and it was the only film of mine 
ever to be developed in this primitive manner. For with my usual 
egotism I enunciated the theory that that static method was not 
the proper way to process a continuous thing like a fifty-foot film. 
I said it ought to be passed continuously through troughs of the 
several chemicals in proper order by mechanical means. Then I 
proceeded to construct a machine according to this plan, using 
sprocket-wheels and other parts of two or three Edison 'Kine- 
toscopes' pulled to pieces for the purpose. When the first machine 
was finished and tested I showed it to Urban and told him I 
thought it ought to be patented. He agreed and said that he would 
like his name associated with mine as co-inventor, and that was 
done. 1 A printer was added in a little while so that the positive 
stock, in contact with the finished negative, was passed into the 
machine at one end and came out at the other, finished and ready 
to be dried. At a much later stage, a drying bank was added and 
then the process was complete. 

Printing and developing machines to this pattern and covered 
by the same patent were in sole use in my laboratories until the 
end of my film-life. It was not, however, until the advent of 
talking films, pointing to the importance of continuous processing 
to do away with the necessity of making joints, that the film trade 
woke up to the desirability of printing and developing by machin- 
ery, and of course, the patent had expired long before that. I was 
too early. Sometimes the tortoise is also wiser than the hare. 

The machine was fitted up in the dark-room cellar at Warwick 
Court, and although it spoiled a lot of film by unforeseen faults 
which came to light from time to time, it did, on the whole, a 
great deal of good work and earned good money for the firm. 

A conspicuous member of the staff was the genial Jew, Joe 
Rosenthal, who was sent out as special correspondent to South 
Africa where the storms of war were brewing. He and his sister, 
Alice, a plump and pleasant lady, and Miss Lena Green, a thin 
one, were, with Mont and myself, the whole staff below the 
principals. Between us we developed and printed and listed and 
sold all the stuff Joe sent home. One way and another there was 
a lot of work to be done. I nearly always, and Mont very often, 
stayed on till eleven at night, and Urban and Baucus, being 

latent No. 13,315. June 14th, 1898. 



39 




First Laboratory and Studios at Walton-on- Thames 

Americans, used to talk till about that time, and then we repaired 
to the pub at the corner of the court for a meal. 

I came to the conclusion that the idea of American hustle is 
just an unconscious bluff. They don't work any faster than we do 
but they talk about it a great deal more. It seemed to me that they 
talked the whole day long and then worked feverishly for an hour 
or two in the evening to make up. 



40 



I have no regrets about Warwick Court. On the whole I had 
a very happy time. I was with nice people and doing the sort of 
work I have always liked; doing it fairly successfully and being 
fairly paid. True, I had no other actual film to my credit but the 
one of the boat-race but I had the handling and printing of Joe 
Rosenthal's work and I picked up a lot of knowledge of the film 
business. I was the most surprised person you can possibly 
imagine when, one Monday morning, I found on my desk a short 
note enclosing a week's wages in lieu of notice and saying that my 
services were no longer required. Monty Wicks had a similar note. 

I saw Urban and pointed out the unfairness of such a sudden 
action and tried to discover a reason for it. He could give no 
reason but did agree to allow us two weeks' salary instead of one. 
Then the question of the patented machine came up and he said 
he didn't want it, and I could have it and the patent too if I liked 
to reimburse the company for the patent fees so far incurred. 
Thus I got the sack from that job. 

I have often wondered since what was the reason for that curt 
dismissal and the only one I can think of is that some time before 
I had asked for and been given — apparently without grudge — a 
royalty of a farthing a foot on all good work turned out on the 
machine. It would be a fairly big charge on modern machines but 
did not amount to much at that time. Or maybe Urban had been 
persuaded that the old method was better and cheaper in the end. 

My young colleague and I decided that we would start again 
on our own. I went that same day to Thames Ditton where I had 
been the year before for a holiday and knew there a factory 
worked by electricity. I hoped to be able to buy a supply from 
them to run a small film-processing plant. They wouldn't or 
couldn't co-operate, however, and I walked on, abandoning the 
hope of buying electricity, to Walton-on -Thames. There in a 
little side-road with a dead end I found a small house which a 
gardener-landlord was willing to let for £36 a year. We took it. 
That was in 1899; — probably early summer. 

The whole idea in taking up this litde house at Walton was to 
start again to do the work we had been doing in London for the 
past half-year or so: cinematograph film-processing, that is 
developing and printing. We proposed to work for the trade, 
although to be sure there was very little of that. It had been half- 
suggested to us, for instance, that Urban himself might give us 
some to do and we felt that it was likely that other firms would be 



4-i 



glad to put out work of this description. It was just taking in other 
people's washing, of course, but what of that? We hadn't the 
faintest idea at first that we might ever come to make pictures on 
our own account. 

We needed several things and our tiny capital had to be very 
carefully laid out. There was a funny little central electricity 
station near Clapham Common, all run by strange little vertical 
gas engines direct-coupled to dynamos, and there were also some for 
sale. We bought one and rigged it up, with its fifty-volt dynamo, in 
the scullery of our little house, where it made a terrible noise when 
it was running. We bought a second-hand battery of twenty -seven 
accumulator cells from a man at Burgess Hill. We wired the 
whole house for electric light, moved the developing machine from 
Warwick Court and re-erected it in the drawing-room, rigged up 
the two bedrooms as film drying-rooms and the front sitting-room 
as an office. That left the kitchen and bathroom for general 
domestic use. It is not true that we ever contemplated taking in a 
paying guest. Indeed, I don't remember how we arranged our 
private lives. I know we prepared and ate our meals in the 
kitchen and I suppose we must have slept somewhere. 

Somewhere about the middle of the summer of 1899, a young 
lady from Weybridge came in daily to do our secretarial and 
office work. She was a Miss Worley, and she stayed with us and 
was very helpful for many years. But the work didn't flow in as 
we hoped it would, and after a while, for lack of other occupation, 
we began to take a few little fifty-foot films and then we started a 
List with 'Film No. 1, Express Trains in a Railway Cutting.'* That 
was the very first of the Hepworth Films, but, like many another 
important baby, its birth was scarcely noted ! 

Then a young girl named Mabel Clark joined the 'staff' as 
what would now be called 'cutting expert' and we decided to 
carry on with the making of these tiny films until Fortune turned 
her face our way and sent us a few orders. But Fortune knew 
better. She only smiled a little and turned her face away, so we 
were left with the baby. 

Thereafter there followed at short intervals a small number of 
fifty-foot films of a very simple and elementary character, such as 
Ladies' Tortoise Race, Donkey Race, Procession of Prize Cattle, Drive 
Past of Four-in Hands. All simple little things obtainable locally at 
no cost save that of the film-stock, and of very little interest to 
anybody. The fact that we took them and sold them, is proof that 



42 



the interest in mere movement in screen pictures had not yet 
completely faded out. Then came one which showed some slight 
perception of scenic value; a 'Thames Panorama' from the front 
of a steam launch. Then, evidently, we went to a cycle gymkhana, 
which is described as 'so familiar a sight as to need but little 
description.' It would appear that even bicycles in those days were 
still so new that the riding of them attracted attention and people 
flocked in quantities to these gymkhanas to see a Musical Ride 
by Ladies and Comic Costume Race for Cyclists. Nine of these 
epics, each of fifty feet, of course, take up numbers 12 to 21 in our 
first catalogue. Then we went further afield and bagged four 
little sea-side pictures at Blackpool. 




My camera at this time was a curious contrivance, for remem- 
ber, photography for us then was still only a side-line. I have 
already mentioned the possession of a couple of Lumiere camera- 
projector mechanisms. One of these we fitted up on a camera- 
stand and so arranged it that the film, as it was exposed, dropped 
through into a light-tight bag slung between the legs of the tripod. 
The bag was made with light-tight sleeves into which I could slide 
my hands — one with a box in it — wind up the exposed film in my 
fingers and put it into the box. Then it only remained to attach 
another box with fifty feet of fresh film in it to the top of the 
camera, and all was ready for the next scene. One of the 'Ladies' 
Gymkhana' films I still have and use, with many others, in my 



43 



lecture of The Story of the Films. The other Lumiere mechanism 
was used as a printer to duplicate these early masterpieces and 
they were processed on the developing machine brought from 
Warwick Court. 

Perhaps it was lucky for me, and for some scraps of posterity, 
that the idea of taking in other people's washing fizzled out and 
never came to anything, for hard circumstance forced us into 
attempts at film production and so started a business which 
afterwards became interesting. It happened something like this. 
We got together a small collection of such puerile efforts as those 
I have mentioned, made a little list of them and managed to sell 
some prints to fair-ground proprietors and others of that sort. 
Being young and keen, a very little encouragement served to fire 
our enthusiasm, and though most of our customers couldn't even 
sign their names and were wont to pay us in threepenny bits 
culled from the roundabouts and swings, they were absolutely 
honest and never cheated us for a penny. The exhibitors of a later 
date did not necessarily inherit this propensity. 

And so we gradually went on to better things. I find that 
Henley Regatta of 1900 attracted our roving attention for seven 
scenes and that perhaps suggested the possibility of taking two or 
three 'scenics' on the upper Thames, punctuated with a river 
panorama of a Cornish mining village. Then we became patriotic 
and immortalised some modern warships and contrasted them 
with old sailing frigates used as training ships for the Navy. 

Then around 1 901, we came to a definite milestone in the shape 
of the Phantom Rides which became tremendously popular about 
this time. These were panoramic pictures taken from the front of 
a railway engine travelling at speed. The South Western Railway 
Company whose line ran through a great deal of very beautiful 
scenery, especially in and around Devonshire, possessed some 
engines particularly suitable for this work in that they had long 
extensions between the front of the boiler and the buffers — iron 
platforms looking as though they had been made for a camera to 
be strapped upon. I approached them with the idea of gaining 
publicity for their line through a number of Phantom Rides and 
they agreed to put one of these engines at my disposal on certain 
sections and gave me a station-to-station pass all over their 
system for as long as was necessary to complete the arrangements. 

But first I had to obtain a suitable camera — it was no use 
tackling that job in fifty-foot driblets and I determined to 



44 



construct a camera big enough to take a thousand feet of film at a 
time and take no chances. What eventually emerged was a long, 
narrow, black box, rather like a coffin standing on end. It had 
three compartments. The centre one contained a 'Bioscope* 
mechanism, modified to do duty as a camera instead of a projector, 
and the top one held a thousand feet of film on a spool, while the 
bottom compartment held a similar spool on which the film was 
automatically rewound as it came out of the camera. 

It was a fairly easy matter to lash this contrivance to the rail 
which had been fitted for safety to the front of the engine extension, 
and the box-like seat contrived for me and a station-master to sit 
upon completed the arrangements. 




I think it was the American Biograph Company, during their 
long run at the Palace Theatre, London, who started this fashion 
of Phantom Rides, but it was rather strange that the public should 
have liked it for so long. Before the craze finished, however, it 
was given a new lease of life by the introduction of an ingenious 
scheme called Hales 9 Tours. A number of small halls all over the 
country were converted into the semblance of a railway carriage 
with a screen filling up the whole of one end and on this was 
projected from behind these panoramic films, so that you got the 
illusion of travelling along a railway line and viewing the scenery 
from the open front of the carriage. The illusion was ingeniously 
enhanced by the carriage being mounted on springs and rocked 
about by motor power so that you actually felt as though you 
were travelling along. 

The Biograph Company had none of these fancy touches, of 
course, at the Palace Theatre. Their work was very interesting 
from another aspect, however, for they used film over four times the 



45 



usual size. Partly because of this their pictures were far better than 
anything the rest of us could obtain and it rather looked for a time 
as if their method would have to come into general use. But the 
clumsy size and great cost proved their undoing in the end, and the 
smaller films, constantly growing brighter and better, soon had 
the field to themselves. 

The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, to give 
them their full name, seem to have started with an ingenious 
viewing device in opposition to the 'Kinetoscope' of Edison. It 
was an attractive-looking instrument for a drawing-room table, 
not at all large or clumsy. A long series of pictures in consecutive 
movement as in a cinematograph film, but all separate paper 
photographs mounted on cards, was arranged to be 'flipped' over 
one after another when the handle of the instrument was turned. 
I am only guessing now because I did not come on to the scene 
until later, but I imagine that in order to produce these paper 
pictures a long multiple negative was made upon film and the 
paper prints made from it. When the popularity of the 'Muto- 
scope' began to wane it would be natural for the company to turn 
their attention to the 'projection' of transparent films made from 
these negatives and to design a projector for that purpose. How- 
ever, that is what they did and that, I suppose, is why they used 
so large a film: for their negatives had to be large enough to make 
the paper prints of suitable size for the 'Mutoscope.' 

That, as I see it, is how the 'Biograph' came into being as a 
separate entity. The film was unique in having no perforations to 
steer it through the camera or projector, but used an ingenious 
device which I described and illustrated in my book, The A.B.C. 
of the Cinematograph, published in 1897 by Hazell, Watson and 
Viney. Don't ask me to lend a copy for I haven't got one. It has 
been out of print for half a century and I lent my only copy years 
ago to a 'lady' journalist with several valuable photographs and 
other things, none of which she ever returned in spite of my 
pleading. 

I must, however, I think, venture upon one point which was of 
some importance in this connection. The original Edison films, 
used, it will be remembered, only for peep-show purposes and not 
for projection upon a screen, had four pairs of holes for each 
picture or 'frame' and were drawn through the apparatus by 
sprocket-wheels engaging in these perforations. The pictures were 
not steady because the perforations were not very accurately 



46 



spaced and the teeth on the sprocket-wheels were not very 
accurately cut. Lumiere had a better idea. He used only one pair 
of holes to each 'frame' and a claw, engaging in those holes, to pull 
the film through the mechanism. Remember, too, that he used the 
same mechanism indifferently as camera, as printer and as 
projector, so that if the holes were not accurate, the error cancel- 
led out and the picture on the screen was remarkably steady. 
The trouble was that this method could only be used with very 
short films; the inertia of a larger roll could not be overcome 
quickly enough by the claw without tearing and destroying the 
film. Steadiness depends upon 'registration 5 — upon each successive 
frame coming into place and occupying exactly the same position 
as the previous one. Lumiere's method died; we reverted to four- 
hole perforation and, with better workmanship, secured steadiness 
in the end. 

Our railway scenes perhaps led naturally to other scenic 
possibilities and the catalogue now owns to several fifty-footers of 
the Departure of a Steamer variety, which bring us to No. 68 in the 
list. No. 69, however, is Mud Larks — a number of urchins scram- 
bling for pennies thrown to them, and that argues incipient 
'direction.' Then we have a Macaroni Eating Competition which is 
evidently 'directed,' though there is still no trace of a stage. Then 
the call for comic pictures became insistent. We were quick to 
respond to it — and the river was just round the corner. Two men 
fishing from a boat, quarrelling over the jug of beer and finally 
falling over into the water — shrieks of laughter! Me, in long skirt 
of fashionable lady's costume, seated at the back of a punt being 
towed by a steam launch, tipping over backwards when the 
tow-rope tightens! More shrieks, but it is exceedingly difficult to 
swim in boots and trousers and a long skirt over the lot! 

Then when each 'epic' of this sort was finished we went on the 
road and tried to sell it, came back and printed the copies for 
which we had taken orders, posted them, and then sat back and 
said, 'Well boys t What about another subject? How would it be 
to — ?' and so on. Always we were glad that we dealt in a trade 
whose product was small and light, like jewellery, and presented 
no difficulties of transport. I often think of this when I see a store- 
room filled with hundreds of iron transit-cases and the many tons 
of films a dealer must handle today. 



47 



CHAPTER 5 

Now dawns a most significant and important departure in the 
story of the films — the awareness of their news value — the value 
of news to the films; the importance of films to the news. News 
pictures became and remained for very many years the backbone 
of the 'pictures. 5 It is probable that they will remain the sinews 
of them for as long as the pictures last. 

So far as I am concerned it began with the South African War, 
and the formation of the City Imperial Volunteers and their 
departure to take an important hand in the conflict. In January, 
1900, 1 stood on the deck of the Garth Castle and photographed the 
men coming up the gangway. Then followed an Animated 
Cartoon, Wiping Something Off the Slate, and afterwards a trick 
film, The Conjurer and the Boer. Only the first, of course, was a 
'news film' in the proper meaning of the words but the other two 
were at least topical. 

Queen Victoria's Visit to Dublin in April, 1900, is news unqualified 
in three films totalling 250 feet. And the Arrival of H. M.S. Powerful 
with the returning heroes of Ladysmith is certainly another news 
film. 

The solar eclipse of May, 1900, was a somewhat remarkable 
'actuality' film. I went out to Algiers on the steam-yacht Argonaut 
with apparatus which I had carefully constructed at home before 
leaving. This was a very strong oaken stand to hold the camera 
at ground level, a fourteen-inch focus, large-aperture lens, a 
motor to drive the camera steadily at slow speed and a storage 
battery to work the motor. On the auspicious morning the 
astronomical party drove out to a spot near Algiers where the 
duration of the eclipse would be at its longest, and there on a 
large concrete platform we all set up our respective gear. 

I so set my camera that in the time at my disposal the dimini- 
shing image of the sun would enter the top right corner of my 
picture and leave again in about fifteen minutes at the bottom 



48 



left. The lens was stopped down to its very smallest and had, 
in addition, a deep red glass screen covering its hood. Although 
there was only a little crescent of the sun showing when operations 
began it would have been fatally over-exposed without these 
precautions. 

Then when the instant of totality arrived I whipped off the red 
screen and at the same time opened the lens aperture to the full 
extent, reversing the operations directly totality was over and the 
sun's rim began to re-appear. By good luck, everything happened 
according to plan and I secured an excellent picture of the 
beautiful corona with enough of the before-and-after to give it 
point. 

Naturally I seized the opportunities to take street scenes and so 
on in Algiers and Tangier where the ship also called, and some 
pleasant views of life aboard the Argonaut. These last have very 
particular significance for me, and that was in this wise. A young 
and bony Scot named John McGuffie had been elected as a sort 
of games master for the cruise — a task which evoked my horrified 
admiration. But he had no shyness and he did the job well. He 
did not try to drag me into the games, for he was a master of tact, 
but to my surprise and glee he singled me out for particular 
friendship. In the sequel I invited him to Walton to share in the 
joy of my newly purchased motor-car and he responded by taking 
me to his home in Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire, where I met 
his delightful family, including his sister, who afterwards became 
my wife. 

I want to treat this matter at a little greater length than might 
seem to befit a film story, for this gracious lady not only had a 
profound influence on my life but she also had a very considerable 
influence on the films I was making. She was one of the four 
perfect women who have come into my existence. I don't want to 
appear sentimental but it has often seemed to me as if some 
power occasionally put angels in the form of women on this 
earth to leaven the ordinary lump of humanity. All of these four 
women, except one, married quite unworthy men, and that one 
was she who married my father's favourite brother — a replica of 
him in many ways. 

During the happy summer of 1901 when I was visiting A. D. 
Thomas in Manchester on business and the McGuffie family at 
Chapel-en-le-Frith on pleasure, I invited brother-in-law-to-be 
John to come to Walton, drive in my crazy 'car' to Southampton, 



49 



there hire a boat and go cruising. All of which came to pass. We 
found a small sailing boat called Sunflower. We insisted upon having 
a dinghy with it so that we could land when we wanted to — it was 
a very small canvas dinghy which we were assured would hold 
two — with care. We didn't know it leaked. We sailed off into the 
blue, right down Southampton Water and out into the Solent and 
made for Gowes. 

In my ignorance I had always thought that the water got 
gradually deeper as you left the shore, was at its deepest half-way 
across and then again gradually shoaled till you touched on the 
other side. Nothing of the kind; there are hills and dales under 
water just as there are on land. Utterly astonished we ran on to 
the Bramble Bank; most improperly placed half-way across to 
the Isle of Wight. So I bought a chart-book of the district — my 
dearest possession for years to come. 

Next day we set sail for the west and the wind and spring tide 
were with us. All was well for some hours. Then the breeze 
dropped and the tide grew stronger as we swept into shallower 
water. We could see the beach stones beneath us rushing back- 
wards and gradually rising closer to us. The wind failed com- 
pletely, the boat was out of control and turned sideways. The 
stones rose nearer and we could do nothing but wait. Suddenly 
we scrunched upon them, lifted a little and then dropped over 
into deep water on the other side, and the wind breathed again. 
So did we. It all seemed most uncanny but when we thought it 
over afterwards we realised how it came about. 

We made Poole Harbour on that tide — pretty good going — 
and anchored ofFBrownsea Island, which I afterwards thought of 
trying to buy to build film studios on. A glorious idea. Then we 
rowed in the canvas dinghy to Sandbanks, and found the leak! 
We stretched luxuriously on the sand — the houses were not there 
then — and studied the chart-book. Suddenly I realised that the 
wind had freshened a good deal — there were white caps on the 
wavelets, and if we didn't start at once we shouldn't be able to. 
We just managed it but there was nothing to spare. We looked for 
the chart-book to go on with our studies, and remembered we had 
left it on the sand and the tide was rising. That sacred chart-book! 
I said I would go back and fetch it; there was no risk for one in 
that crazy cockle-shell but it was a different matter for two. But 
John said he would go as he was lighter than I and he couldn't 
risk having to take a dead fiance back to his sister. But I wouldn't 



50 



chance taking her a dead brother either and while we were 
arguing the wind was rising. Pair of fools that we were, we went 
together, and the special providence that looks after fools must 
have had quite a job. 

Perhaps I should jump here past half a dozen or so of incon- 
spicuous films of scenery and 'made-up 5 outdoor pictures to one 
which marked something of an epoch in my film life. The Explosion 
of a Motor-car (No. 130) was one which attracted a great deal of 
attention at the time, for it was typical of the public attitude 
towards 'horseless carriages' in those days, and had, for an 
alleged 'comic,' quite a germ of genuine humour in it. The car 
was steered by means of a little arrow-shaped handle in front of 
the driver. It was driven by a horizontal gas-engine in the back, 
which you started by putting on an old glove and pulling round 
the very dirty fly-wheel. It was belt-driven, like a small factory, 
with fast and loose pulleys which were engaged by means of a 
lever ready to the driver's hand. The carriage was of dog-cart 
design, completely without protection, and so balanced that if the 
occupants of the front seats got out first the whole thing tipped up 
and pitched out the others. In suitable conditions it would run for 
five or six miles without requiring filling up with cooling water, 
but in that time it generally shed a journal-box, which you had 
to walk back along the road to recover and refit. It 'had no 
reverse, but that didn't matter for if you wanted to turn round in 
a narrow road you just got out and lifted up the front wheels and 
turned it round. The sales of Explosion of a Motor-car were the 
biggest we had had up till then. 

Soon we began to feel the necessity of indoor sets, for the ideas 
for outdoor comics began to wear thin. So we set up a sort of 
stage in our little back garden. It measured fifteen feet by eight 
and had a few upright posts against which scenery flats could be 
propped. It faced due south so as to give us the longest possible 
spell of sunlight. This was progress indeed, but it was a long time 
before we began really to contemplate making many films of 
much greater length than the almost standard fifty-footers. 

To people who are familiar with the general appearance of 
small theatrical set-ups — and who is not in tjiese days of amateur 
theatricals? — this short description will probably convey all that 
is necessary, or if not, my drawing will fill in most of the details. 

The little stage was in the open air because we were completely 



5 1 



dependent upon daylight for our photography; also we had never 
heard of anyone using a covered studio for film work — probably 
no one ever had. All we wanted was a bit of floor for * actors' to 
walk on and some scenery flats to set up against a suitable support 
to give the appearance of a room, kitchen or drawing or what-not. 




=^§CL-1/< 



400*+ ^ 



^t^^e^a^v^-^j^i^l^s 



The possession of a stage brought many other difficulties with 
it. Scenery had to be made and painted. I am no artist but I 
remembered my childhood's nursery efforts and so the job fell to 
me. As the little vertical gas-engine soon blew itself to bits, a more 
orthodox horizontal one was installed in the kitchen and so freed 
the scullery for scene-painting purposes. It is on record that we 
had our meals in the kitchen beside the gas-engine and that the 
smell of the size from the scullery formed a welcome addition to 
our meals and saved us the cost of cheese. Up to this time, and 
indeed for some while afterwards, no thought of employing 
professional actors had ever entered our heads. The mere idea of 
films was abhorred by all stage people and it is doubtful whether 
any would have come to Walton if we had asked them. So we 
played all the parts ourselves and anyone who wasn't acting 
turned the handle of the camera. 



52 



The position of the gas-engine in the kitchen reminds me that 
an aunt — Aunt Bella, a third sister of my mother's — took pity on 
our primitive ways and came to keep house for us for a while. 
She was a kind creature and though she admitted she didn't like 
the gas-engine going while we were at lunch she agreed that it 
enabled us to keep our eyes upon it and let us get the battery 
charged with less interruption to our ordinary work. Where on 
earth she slept, or indeed where any of us slept, is a complete 
mystery to me, for I have no recollection at all of ever sleeping 
anywhere. 

It will probably have been apprehended that we practised a 
degree of economy in those days somewhat in excess of that which 
is to be encountered in most modern studios, but even so, we 
could hardly have survived if kindly fate had not interposed a 
finger in our pie. I am quite unable to fix a date for this occurrence 
or even to find its proper place in our catalogue. All I can say is 
that it occurred and had its due and considerable influence on my 
affairs. I can, however, say it was before my marriage and after 
the eclipse of the sun which, indirectly, led up to it. That puts it 
in 1 90 1 or the latter part of 1900. 

An old gentleman — we thought he was old — came to see us at 
Walton for some reason which is now buried in the mists of 
forgotten things. He looked around at everything we could show 
him, asked a good many questions and at last asked me if I would 
sell half the business as it stood and take his son, H. V. Lawley, 
as my partner. We discussed terms, settled upon a price and made 
some suitable arrangement for Monty Wicks and that was that. 
The new money was a very great help, for we were down to our 
last fiver. It is some little consolation to realise now that that 
condition is not entirely unknown in modern studio practice. 

Partner Lawley soon picked up our peculiar ways and, being 
no snob, settled down at once without demur to our primitive 
household habits. It did not take him long to acquire enough 
knowledge of cinematography to make him a useful operator. 
Soon after he arrived I took on another very useful man named 
Percy Stow who developed a great aptitude for ingenious trick- 
work in films, and as both of them were well able and willing to 
take their turns at the developing and printing machine, turn and 
turn about with me whenever necessary, we all got on famously 
together. 

I have only been really drunk once in my life. I daresay you 



53 



are wondering what on earth that has to do with developing 
machines. Well, it hasn't very much — it just came into my head 
when I was thinking about the three of us getting on so well 
together. For we all three got rolling drunk one evening without 
having a single drop of anything to drink! We were very interested 
at that time in the problem of getting our news pictures upon the 
screens in the shortest possible time. Now the two great sources of 
delay are the necessity of washing the films thoroughly, which 
takes time, and of drying them afterwards, which takes much 
longer still. It's the gelatine that's the trouble. It takes a long time 
to wash the chemicals out of the gelatine and much longer still to 
dry it afterwards. 

But I happened to remember a little-known process which does 
not have gelatine in its make-up. It is called collodio-bromide 
and, as may be imagined, collodion takes the place of gelatine 
and a rinse is sufficient to clean it and it dries in a minute or two. 
Its drawback is that it is terribly slow — wants a very long exposure 
to the printing light. However, it can be accelerated tremendously 
by treating it with a little eosine, which is the dye from which red 
ink is made. This process had been used for glass lantern-slides 
very successfully and I determined to experiment with it. But 
directly the dyed emulsion was coated upon celluloid a strange 
thing happened. Every particle of the sensitising dye was sucked 
out of the collodion by the celluloid and all the valuable extra 
speed went with it. It appeared that celluloid had a tremendous 
affinity for eosine and stole it from the collodion. It dyed the 
celluloid red and left the collodion white, and so insensitive to 
light that it was impossible to do anything with it. 

The drunkenness? Well, that happened this way. Collodion is 
made by dissolving gun-cotton in a mixture of alcohol and ether. 
The sensitising agent is added to it in the dark-room. We three, 
in the dark except for a red lantern, and looking, I should think, 
like a trio of witches, were stirring the stuff for a considerable time 
and the vapour had the same effect upon us as though we had 
been drinking heavily. Anyhow, we finished off the job and then 
went out for a walk to Shepperton, singing loudly and rolling 
arm-in-arm all the way. 

So far as I can gather from the printed catalogue of 'selected' 
films which was issued later, we do not appear to have had much 
use of the stage now that we had got it. Almost every picture was 
taken in natural scenery and the great majority were deliberately 



54 



selected for their essentially English character and for the peculiar 
beauty of the countryside of this land. I don't think there was any 
specially patriotic consciousness about this at the time — it was 
probably a matter of personal taste. But much later on, when it 
became the practice of English studios to ape the methods and 
style and treatment of American films, in the vain hope of win- 
ning some of the success which had only too obviously passed to 
them, I did consciously rebel. It seemed to me then — and it does 
still seem to me — that the best hope and the most honourable 
course for every country is to be true to its own culture, to produce 
the pictures which are native and natural to it, and to try to tell 
of the things which are good and worthy about it and its civilisa- 
tion. Certainly not to try to poach upon the natural preserves of 
other lands. Not only because that is rather dishonest but also, and 
chiefly, because it is certain to be unsuccessful. 

Natural, open-air scenery could not, of course, meet all our 
needs and the first use of the new stage was in No. 132, The Egg- 
Laying Man, a trick film in which the head of the actor (me) fills 
the whole screen. It has often been stated that D. W. Griffith, the 
great American producer, who appeared, and had such astonish- 
ing skill, several years later, was the originator of, and the first to 
use, the 'close-up.' That is not so. One of the first pictures ever 
made, The Kiss, used it with great success. It was tremendously 
popular in its day and found its way into nearly every fair and 
circus in the country. The way the two huge faces nuzzled into 
one another was just a little nauseating in its intimacy, but it 
was mild in comparison with what we get in nearly every love- 
story film nowadays. 

Soon there followed The Eccentric Dancer, in which the device 
later known as 'slow-motion photography' was used, probably for 
the first time. I remember we had to hand-turn the camera at 
tremendous speed to get the effect, which was exceedingly comic 
until continual use dimmed its infinite variety. Two other novel 
effects come next to one another in the list, How it Feels to be Run- 
Over, and a reversing film, in the second half of which the action 
is shown backwards and the bathers dive feet-first out of the water 
and on to the diving-board. 

Then there are several more of these alleged 'comics' whose 
only interest now is that they seem to show gradual progress to 
better work, and then we come to more news pictures of the 
return of the C.I.V.s from South Africa, and to no less than nine 



55 



films of life in the British Army and thirty similarly devoted to (he 
Navy — all, I think, taken by our new recruit, H. V. Lawley, who 
had, by then, been with us long enough to learn how to use a 
camera, and use it to good effect. 

But it will be tiresome if I continue to quote the titles of 
successive films which have already brought us up to No. 220 in 
the catalogue; and I will skip to a very important date in English 
History and in my own film-life. This was January, 1901, the 
death of Queen Victoria. We took the funeral procession from 
three positions including the one I had at Victoria Station. I 
cannot do better than quote from the description written at the 
time. 'This photograph was taken from such close quarters that 
everyone who takes part appears life-size and has his portrait 
faithfully recorded. A very remarkable feature about it is the 
splendid portrait which it includes of the King, the German 
Emperor and the Duke of Connaught. They are following close 
behind the gun-carriage which turns the corner right in front of 
the camera, so that it appears to fill the entire view. The King 
holds up his hand to stay the further portion of the procession for 
a while to allow more room for the earlier part, and while he and 
his companions rein up in the centre of the view, he leans over 
and talks to first one and then the other. The result is a most 
delightful group of the three august personages.' 

That is how it appeared to the public: this is how it seemed to 
me: — I had a wonderful position just inside the railings of 
Grosvenor Gardens opposite Victoria Station. My camera was the 
coffin-like construction which had been made some time before 
for taking the Phantom Rides. When it was used on the front of an 
engine, I did not realise, or care, how much noise it made. In the 
great silence and hush of the most solemn funeral in history it was 
a very different matter. That silence was a thing that closed in 
everything like an almost palpable curtain, not broken, but only 
accentuated, by the muted strains of the funeral march. Then at 
its moment of greatest tension I started to turn my camera, and 
the silence was shattered ! If I could have had my dearest wish 
then the ground would certainly have opened at my feet and 
swallowed me and my beastly machine. But the noise had one 
curious effect. It caught the attention, as it must certainly have 
done, of the new King, Edward VII, and I believe that is why he 
halted the procession so that posterity might have the advantage 
of the cinematograph record. 



56 




Mma Taylor and Henry Ainley in 'Iris" 




I 

O 







2: 
5 



^ 



a; 

I. 



But, so far as wc were concerned, photographing the funeral 
was only the beginning. My friend, A. G. Bromhead, representa- 
tive of Leon Gaumont of Paris, had collected for us many orders 
for the films of the procession and we had many more on our own 
account. We hurried back to Walton to develop the negatives and 
to start making the prints. We worked all through the night and 
the next day and the following night to fill these orders and the 
others which kept coming in. Then early on the morning after 
that, when we thought, thanking God, we had finished, we went 
up into the drying rooms (bedrooms you will remember) and 
found to our horror that all the prints, except those already 
despatched, were spoiled. Through some fault in the material 
the film stock had all turned milky- white. We phoned Bromhead 
as soon as we could, but he said print them over again as soon as 
possible but in the meantime send up the spoiled stuff — I have 
any number of further orders. It seems that our negatives were 
better than others and very many people wanted prints. Before 
that job was done I had worked for eight days and nights with 
only nine hours off for food and sleep and the others did not fare 
much better. One of them, John Whitton, who had not been long 
with us, was found fast asleep on the floor of one of the drying 
rooms when Lawley and I went up to see how he was getting on 
before snatching an hour or two off for ourselves, and although 
we tried everything we could think of to wake him we just could 
not do it, and we had to leave him there. 

I remember staggering home after one of these long spells of 
work and wondering at the continual pealing and chiming of the 
church bells all around me. It was early morning and there was 
only one church within miles, and that was silent. It was just 
illusion, a result of fatigue. But, never mind, we made a good 
deal of money and topped up our reputation quite a bit. 

Although we had a stage of sorts and, between us, a considerable 
experience of film-making, we seem very seldom to have attempted 
pictures with more than one scene in them. One of the first of this 
kind we made had, about 1901, a rather curious history, but it 
was some time earlier than the events of this chapter. It was the 
story of a burglary, in three scenes. I was the burglar with a full 
black beard — I suppose we felt that a burglar couldn't possibly 
be clean shaven. The first scene, set up on the stage, represented 
the outside of a house with a window through which I — the 
burglar — climbed. We struck that scene and set the next, the 



57 



inside of the house with the burglar coming through, seizing coats 
and things and starting to go back. Then we had to strike that 
scene and reset the first one to see the robber climbing back out of 
the window and getting away with his haul. 

It was a very simple little work, but it had three peculiarities, 
i. It was a story of undetected crime and would never have 
passed the censor in later days. 2. It showed delightful unsophisti- 
cation in taking the scenes in that order instead of doing the first 
and third together in one go. 3. In the excitement of resetting the 
last scene, in which work, of course, I helped, I entirely forgot my 
beard and came out of the window clean shaven! But if we were 
unsophisticated, what about the showmen and the public? We 
held an inquest on the picture as it stood and decided to let it go 
out with all its imperfections on its head. And although a number 
of copies were sold we never received a single complaint! 

As it happened — luckily for me as I thought at the time — I had 
then a good deal of business in Manchester, and as that grim city 
is within twenty miles or thereabouts of some very beautiful 
scenery, including Chapel-en-le-Frith which held so much charm 
for me, it is natural that I did not refuse to attend to that business 
when it came my way. It came in the form of one of the most 
remarkable personalities of the entertainment world of that or any 
other time. 

He was an utter scamp, a very lovable fellow and one of the 
greatest showmen who ever lived. He was very actively, extremely 
actively, engaged in the cinematograph show business. His name 
was A. D. Thomas, which for purposes of enhancement, he soon 
changed to Edison-Thomas and then, later on, to Thomas-Edison, 
and if people got it into their heads that he was the Edison, the 
great 'inventor' of moving pictures and many other things, well, 
that was their look-out. He didn't do anything to disillusion them. 
He plastered the whole town wherever he went, and he went 
nearly everywhere, with tremendous posters in brilliant colours 
describing his wonderful shows and his still more wonderful self. 
He had something in the nature of a more-or-less permanent 
address in Oxford Street, Manchester. 

He bought several of our better films — he knew how to choose — 
but more especially he employed me to take particularly local 
films for him. These were generally of workers leaving some 
large factory in the neighbourhood of places being visited or 
about to be visited, by one of his travelling shows. 



58 



The turn-out of the local fire brigade, all smoke and sparks and 
perspiring horses, was one of his favourite subjects, and I must 
have taken well over fifty of them for him. Less honestly (honesty 
was his long suit — his Sunday suit, always left at home), he would 
parade the town in person, mounted high on an open lorry, 
actively turning his camera on every little knot of people he 
passed. As the lorry was plastered with his colourful posters telling 
them to come and see themselves at such-and-such hall tonight, 
it left the people in no doubt as to what he was doing. Unfortu- 
nately for their hopes the camera had no film in it; it was merely 
a dummy, and, if they failed to see themselves on the screen, it 
was just too bad. The hall was filled and they had a good show 
for their money, so what's the odds? 

There was another showman about that time who afterwards 
became more prominent in the trade than A. D. Thomas. He was 
not so clever and more dishonest, but wild horses will not drag 
his name from me, for fear the information that came to me about 
him may have become exaggerated on the way, as sometimes 
happens. According to the story, his method was very simple. He 
engaged the principal hall in several towns, spread his posters for 
a one-night show all over the place, stayed long enough in the 
hall to collect the money as the people came in and then quietly 
took his leave by a side door. No pictures, no machine, no any- 
thing! But then, as I say, the story may have been exaggerated. 

The first time I went to Ghapel-en-le-Frith at the invitation of 
my new-found friend, John McGufhe, he casually suggested that 
I had better take my evening clothes with me. When I arrived 
and was introduced to his two sisters and his younger brother — 
the parents were both dead — I learned to my horror that we were 
all to go to a dance in a neighbouring village. It was, however, a 
fresh and very pleasant experience when I got over my first 
dismay, for a dance in those days and in a little out-of-the-way 
village was utterly different and remote from anything to be even 
guessed at now. Remember, it was long before the first world war. 
Jazz and the saxophone had never been guessed at and ways and 
customs were very different. 

We five packed into a hired carriage, wrapped ourselves in 
many rugs and drove as fast as the horses would go — which was 
very slow indeed — over the ups and downs of Derbyshire country 
roads — of which, of course, I could see nothing in the dark — 
and arrived at length at the village hall. Then there was quick 



59 



unrobing so as to get into the 'ball-room' quickly, for if you 
did not get your programme filled up early, you were lost. The 
McGuffie girls had each allotted me two dances before we left 
their home, and were most assiduous in finding me partners for 
all the others, whose names I jotted in if I could hear them 
correctly, otherwise the colour of their dresses. I learned that two 
dances was the maximum allowance for any one girl — it was 
considered 'significant' if that number were exceeded. It was a 
very pleasant and happy little affair. The dancers in that village 
were not of the village girl and hobbledehoy class but mostly the 
neighbours and friends of the people I was staying with, quiet, 
moderately cultured, very happy and not at all noisy. 

Afterwards at their home I found that they still retained a 
curious old-fashioned custom which rather surprised me; they 
always dressed for dinner in the evening. I admit I came to scoff 
but remained to praise, and when I was married and my wife 
came South with me we brought the quaint old Northern custom 
with us and kept it up. I believe that it did help me to retain what 
little sanity I have in spite of the disturbing worries of film-making. 
If you can force yourself to shut down your business sharp at 
six o'clock, go home and throw off your working clothes and shed 
your worries with them (and that is what it really feels like), put 
on a boiled shirt and a smiling face, and meet a nicely dressed and 
happy wife, you need never give your troublesome work another 
thought until tomorrow morning. 

We were married at Buxton on February nth, 1902. There 
was a heavy snowstorm the day before and I hurriedly cancelled 
the carriages and ordered sledges instead. It was taking chances 
on tomorrow's weather but luckily it played up to me and both 
protagonists and guests all enjoyed the novel experience. It even 
earned me my first bit of publicity in a London paper. If they had 
known I was a film man I shouldn't have had it, so differently 
were we regarded all that time ago. Nowadays it would be 'Film 
Producer Weds Country Girl in Snow,' or something of that sort. 
Incidentally, why do people in newspapers always 'wed,' never 
'marry'? 

All the remaining three of that happy little family married 
within a few months of that time and that happy house was 
emptied. I have never seen it since, and now, all but one of those 
people are dead. And shortly after the time of my marriage, 
A. D. Thomas, 'Thomas-Edison,' played his last few tricks and 



60 



played himself out. His various debts crowded around him. I was 
slow to realise what was happening, or shut my eyes to it when he 
pleaded for a little more time, and I parted from him in the end 
his creditor for nearly five hundred pounds. This was a sad blow 
for a little business like ours, but we weathered the storm and 
though we shipped a good deal of water we were not wrecked. 

One more showmanship note. Quite early in my film-life I was 
commissioned to photograph a young lady taking off all her 
clothes while she swung and hung on a trapeze. The trapeze was 
rigged up on the roof of the Alhambra so that I could have plenty 
of daylight, but it was very disappointing. When she had taken 
off her last 'shimmy' she was found to have on a perfectly respec- 
table bathing-dress. But that is not what I mean. It was disappoint- 
ing because in my effort to keep the whole swing of the trapeze 
in my picture I had taken the camera so far away that the figure 
was very small indeed and you could hardly see what was going 
on. Or should I say, what was coming off? 

I do not think that film ever appeared before the public and 
even if it had it would not have been questioned, for there was no 
thought of a censorship then. Indeed, there was little need for one 
for it was only very occasionally that a film appeared to which 
objection could reasonably be taken. But later on there came a 
small but apparently growing quantity of short films which were 
said to be intended for 'smoking-room 5 exhibition. They were only 
a few at first but, like the small black cloud no bigger than a man's 
hand, they seemed to some of us to be ominous. 




61 



CHAPTER 6 

Now let us go back to the little story of film-making at Walton- 
on-Thames, which I had left awhile to dip into the cognate subject 
of showmanship. We can skip a number of films which were a 
little more varied and a little better made as time went on; we can 
turn over a few more pages which describe films of much the same 
kind as before, we come to a sad moment in our country's history 
and a very sad one in my own. We had mustered together every 
possible camera, settled the position of every man at our disposal, 
and indeed, had all our gear ready waiting on the stairs of our 
litde house, ready to start to photograph our biggest effort, the 
Coronation of King Edward VII, when the news came through 
that the King was seriously ill and the whole ceremony 
postponed. 

The only thing I could think of to do was to go up to London 
and see what the people seemed to think of it. I found them all 
wandering about rather aimlessly looking at the decorations. And 
I took some views of Disappointed London — London without a 
single motor- vehicle. But there were many thousands of Indians 
and Colonials who had come over for the coronation and they 
could not stay here indefinitely, so the Queen and the Prince of 
Wales held a wonderful review with Lord Roberts and a host of 
foreign princes, which gave us the chance to take half a dozen 
films of more than the usual length. 

Then when the King was happily recovered, to the great joy of 
the people, the actual coronation took place and was duly and 
faithfully recorded by our cameras. We were, in fact, very 
successful in all our work of this description and served the country 
well with cinematographic news until the news-reels came into 
existence and took it over. In a sense the early film people were 
more 'Fleet Street minded' than the news-reel people when they 
followed later, for they went to extraordinary lengths to get their 
news pictures on to the screens on the day of the event. A railway 



62 



van would be chartered and the negative of the Grand National 
developed while it was rushing to London. Or a motor-car would 
carry the wet film hanging out in a streamer behind to get it dry 
by the time it reached the theatre. I had no hand in any of these 
doings and do not quite know how far they were true. But we 
did do all that could reasonably be expected of us to put our 
pictures on at the earliest moment without spoiling them. 

Our success with the Coronation seems to have inspired a 
spate of news-realism, what with Lord Kitchener at Ipswich, the 
procession of the King and Queen around London in October, 
the arrival of the German Emperor, Joseph Chamberlain's 
departure for South Africa, the state opening of Parliament in 
February of the following year, 1903, and the launch of the third 
Shamrock. All these, of course, and many others were interwoven 
with the usual little comedies and the like, and then we come to a 
more ambitious effort in Alice in Wonderland. This was the greatest 
fun and we did the whole story in 800 feet — the longest ever at 
that time. Every situation was dealt with with all the accuracy at 
our command and with reverent fidelity, so far as we could 
manage it, to Tenniel's famous drawings. I had been married 
about a year and my wife, broken-in to film work, played the part 
of the White Rabbit. Alice was played by Mabel Clark, the little 
girl from the cutting room, growing exasperatingly larger and 
smaller as she does in the book. The beautiful garden was the 
garden of Mount Felix, at Walton; the Duchess, the kitchen, the 
mad tea-party, the Cheshire Cat, the royal procession — all were 
there. The painting of the whole pack of cards human size was 
quite an undertaking and the madly comic trial scene at the end 
made a suitable and hilarious finale. 

And so the story goes on. We had by now definitely broken 
away from the fifty-foot tradition and our films took whatever 
length, in reason, that the subject demanded. The great majority 
of them varied from 100 to 200 feet at that time (1903) though the 
fifty-foot idea persists in the system of numbering. This is because 
we had a lingering feeling that we might have to cut some of the 
'long' films down to make them saleable to a few of our more 
prudent customers and then it would be convenient to have 
numbers in reserve to know them by. So Alice was numbered 430 
to 446, but The Duchess and her Pig Baby could be purchased 
separately as No. 438. So when I jump from 450 to, say, 531, as I 
now propose to do, it doesn't mean that I have skipped as many 



63 



as eighty individual films but only that I am trying to avoid too 
many tedious details. 

Indeed, I am only stopping here to mention one little effort 
which is probably unique even to the present day as it certainly 
was in its own time when it was said; 'the Cinematograph has 
been used to burlesque a popular application of itself.' The 
Warwick Trading Company under Charles Urban, building up 
its own excellent series of films, began to include microscope 
subjects under the tide of The Unseen World, The Urban-Duncan 
Micro-Bioscope. So we produced a burlesque called The Unclean 
World, The Suburban-Bunkum Microbe-Guyoscope, in which were 
shown, among other things, a number of horrible-looking beedes 
crawling about in the circular field of a microscope, and they 
continue to thrill the spectator until a couple of human hands 
come into view to wind up the animals, now obviously clock-work. 

Still resisting the temptation to stop and comment upon the 
procession of films as they pass in memory before me, I come to 
one (No. 612) which I think should be mentioned as it points to 
our occasional allusions to the questions of the hour. It is three 
hundred feet devoted to The Great Servant Question: Tine photo- 
graphy with all the scenes dissolving into one another.' We did 
not realise that before this book came to be written the whole 
'question' would have 'dissolved' and left us with scarcely a 
memory that it had ever existed. 

Some time before the production of Rescued by Rover, we came 
to a rather important change in our affairs. A. C. Bromhead, as 
Gaumont in Cecil Court, had been our chief selling agent at the 
time of the Funeral of Queen Victoria and for some while afterwards, 
but the time came when I felt that we were too much out of things 
at Walton and ought to have our own direct representation in 
London, especially as we had by then several items of apparatus 
to sell as well as our films. So it seemed natural to drift back to our 
original hunting ground and we rented a couple of shops in 
Cecil Court, which, because there were so many of us there, was 
becoming known as 'Flicker Alley.' 

We had a rather disastrous first year which led to the igno- 
minious retreat of the first manager, and a young fellow named 
C. Parfrey, who had been looking after our accounts there since 
the beginning, undertook to give more time and pull our affairs 
straight, which he did very successfully. 

My partner, H. V. Lawley, and I, who had all along been the 



64 




R 



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e 



&H 

^ 



52 



t*> 



best of friends, began not to see quite eye-to-eye on several 
matters of very little importance in themselves which assumed, as 
they heaped up, considerable significance. To show how little 
they were really, here is a typical example. I had been to London 
and used the opportunity to buy fifty rolls of negative film each 
of fifty metres, about 8,250 feet. In view of our growing require- 
ments, that seemed to me to be a quite reasonable investment, 
but Lawley thought it was gross extravagance — and said so. 
There was a suggestion that I was squandering the partnership 
funds to satisfy my own opulent ideas. There was nothing more 
to it than that but these little things mounted to a growing 
irritation between us, and in the end we decided to dissolve the 
partnership. 

In order to pay him out — no, that doesn't sound right! In order 
to refund to him his half of the agreed value of the business at the 
time, I formed a little private company among a few of my 
father's friends, who agreed to take shares. The Hep worth 
Manufacturing Company Limited was registered April 25th, 1904, 
and C. Parfrey was appointed London Manager. He carried on 
to everyone's complete satisfaction until the Great War flared up 
in 1 9 14. He was in America then, arranging and opening our 
agency there, and he came back in spite of much strong American 
advice to stay there and help gather up the valuable pieces when 
the fools this side had fought to a standstill. 

Parfrey had, and I suppose he still has, an excellent head for 
business. In 'Flicker Alley,' under his auspices, we sold projectors, 
resistances and accessories, most of which had some stamp of 
originality upon them and, of course, my original arc -lamp. And 
from here we sold our films and made not perhaps a fortune but 
enough to carry on and to continue improving our products and 
repute. 

At Walton there came in from time to time several people, 
some with a little theatrical experience and all with a burning 
desire to become film-producers. They had what chance we felt 
able to offer them and they did from time to time produce a few 
films. These were not altogether their fault, for I butted in in 
many cases, especially when there were interior scenes to be dealt 
with. They made their little marks upon the archives and faded 
gradually away to pass, I hope, into easier atmosphere and 
opportunities for better work. 

I do not wish to appear ungrateful, for these wishful 'producers' 



65 



did undoubtedly fill in a time when we were beginning to enlarge 
our ideas. Some of them were worse than others and some better 
than the average but it would be very invidious to sort them out 
and that is why I do not wish to mention any names at this point. 
They all had one peculiarity in common which I did not like at 
all. They harangued and abused the poor little tame actors and 
actresses who were working for them and spilled their unpleasant 
language all over the place. I felt that I knew nothing about these 
things, but I protested. They all informed me then that it was 
perfectly usual, the invariably common practice on the stage, and, 
in fact, that it was the only way to get any good work out of stage 
people. 

It may have been the usual behaviour on the stages they came 
from — though I doubt it. It was certainly not the way of things 
on the theatrical stage when I became better acquainted with it 
several years later. Nothing of that kind goes on in the theatre of 
today or in any studio. I am quite sure it was never the best way 
to get good work out of any actors, whatever their station in life. 

It appears from the silent evidence of the catalogue that it 
must have been about early 1905 that our little company was 
joined and refreshed by the coming of Lewin Fitzhamon, whose 
original and sprightly ideas had a considerable effect upon our 
work. The Press Illustrated, parodying the titles of a number of 
popular journals, shows his puck-like humour to much advantage. 

The next film that catches my eye after a procession of comics, 
scenics and general interests, is a long 'dramatic' called Falsely 
Accused, which had a considerable vogue in spite of its extortionate 
length of 850 feet. And 1905, introduced by The Derby, The King 
of Spain's Review, The Royal Wedding at Windsor, and some other 
topicals, as well as many 'made-up 5 films, brings us to the most 
notable for many years, Rescued by Rover. 

I had been dropping out from the actual making of films and 
devoting myself more to the supervision of the work of others and 
to scenic photography which has always been my hobby, but 
Rescued by Rover was a particularly family affair. My wife wrote 
the story, my baby — eight months old — was the heroine, my dog 
the hero, my wife the bereaved mother and myself the harassed 
father — though why in the world I should have thought it 
necessary to play the part throughout in a frock coat and tall 
hat is more than I can understand. 

This was the first occasion in which professional actors were 



66 



employed at Walton, Mr. and Mrs. Sebastian Smith playing 
respectively the flirtatious soldier and the wicked old woman who 
stole the baby while the nurse's back was turned. They each 
received half-a-guinea which included their fares from London! The 
nurse's part was played by Mabel Clark. For some reason this 
quaintly simple little film has found its way into the National 
Film Library and has been instanced again and again, either as 
an example of most praiseworthy economy in cost or, alternatively, 
of budding genius in production. It was enormously popular 
and financially successful in its time and we had to make it 
all over again a second time and then even a third, because 
we wore out the negatives in the making of the four hundred 
prints to satisfy the demand. It was my biggest thing ever, 
since The Funeral of Queen Victoria. Its cost was trifling by today's 
standards. 

Meanwhile our little company was slowly gathering to itself 
the sort of people who fitted in, shared our feelings and ideas, 
reinforced our abilities and turned out the kind of work we wanted 
and could be proud of. First among these, both in time and in 
quality, were Stanley Faithfull and, a year later, his brother 
Geoffrey. Never has any name been more justly worn. They came 
when they left school, each at the age of fourteen, about 1896 and 
1897. I have known them intimately ever since and never for one 
second in all that long time have I known either of them to falter 
in the perfection of good faith. 

Tom White was Stanley's school friend. His father asked me to 
take him on and unconsciously did me the best of good turns, for 
he is another of the same order of knighthood and his name also 
suits him to perfection. He is at this moment of writing the General 
Manager at the Pinewood Film Studios, and if you want to hear 
the highest praise that any man can win, ask anyone what they 
think of him there. 

Lewin Fitzhamon, too, was a rattling good sort — one of the very 
best. He introduced the two little girls, Dolly Lupone and Gertie 
Potter, and made with them several bright and pleasant little 
films. He brought along, too, a little later on, the two little Ginger 
Girls whose flaming hair lighted up the roads and lanes of Walton 
for a considerable time. They were the protagonists in a number 
of 'shorts' which again were full of that gaiety and sprightly 
happiness which was the hall-mark of all Fitz's work. His greatest 
triumph was with the Tilly Girl series, with Alma Taylor and 



67 



Chrissie White, who were soon to become the most important 
members of the famous Hepworth Stock Company. 

Now I want to make it quite clear that all and any of these 
young people were liable to be called upon, the girls specially, to 
take on various jobs in the process of film-making other than 
acting. They came gladly and worked with a will, drying, sorting, 
labelling or boxing, or even running errands. And never was 
there a sound of grumbling — never any that I heard anyway. 
Contrariwise, as Tweedledum would say, anybody anywhere, 
carpenter, electrician, dark-room hand or clerk might be roped in 
to act a part at any time, and all were willing and glad to obey. 

But our crowd were not the only ones imbued with this spirit. 
Even the horses in Walton village had the same idea. There were 
only a few of them and normally their job was to run the small 
omnibus to or from the station to meet the trains. Abnormally, 
they had to turn out with the fire-brigade when the call came. 
Then the bus was hastily abandoned wherever it might be and 
the horses galloped off to the fire-engine house, and the passengers 
in the bus could jolly-well walk. This happened to us sometimes, 
for casual actors came down by train and if they were stranded 
they arrived very late for their parts in the film. Good old timers 
like Thurston Harris were among those who fell victims to this 
capricious habit. The bus drivers were great local characters 
named Bert and Fred Stowe. 

A notable effort from the Fitzhamon basket, about 1908, was 
a trick and chase film in one — a combination of two very popular 
styles at that time. It was called The Fatal Sneeze. Gertie Potter 
was the mischievous 'boy' with the pepper pot who caused all the 
trouble. There were dozens of scenes in which the unhappy 
sneezer, whose every orgasm caused dreadful wreckage, was 
chased from one scene to another until his last effort set the whole 
visible world swaying from side to side and he himself exploded 
and disappeared in smoke. It was a crude performance, but I have 
kept it in my film-lecture as an example and it always provokes 
more laughter and mirth than many a modern comedy. 

We strayed far afield at times. One of our fellows, named 
Scott-Brown, went to Egypt and brought back many short 
negatives, one of which was tremendously popular, Moonlight on 
the Nile. Half its effect was due to the staining and toning which 
we gave to the prints. This is something which is necessarily 
quite unfamiliar to laboratory workers of the present day. The 



68 



prints were made individually and to a great extent by hand. 
But they could be, and were, very greatly enhanced by having 
certain of the scenes stained with an appropriate dye — blue for 
moonlight, red for firelight for instance. There was another post- 
printual process, too, which often added real beauty to the scene, 
called 'toning.' In this case it was not the base of the film which 
was coloured but the photographic image itself. So it was possible 
to have the picture-substance of a deep brown-red colour on a 
background of light blue. All these effects could only be obtained 
by elaborate after-treatment of the otherwise finished print. It 
was difficult and expensive but it was worth while at the time, and 
was only abandoned as work became more commercialised and 
it is never even heard of now. 

On another occasion I sent Scott-Brown to British North 
Borneo with the strictest injunctions to send every bit of film home 
just as soon as it was exposed, for I knew that tropical conditions 
had a nasty trick of dissolving out the latent image on the film, if 
it is under their influence for long, undeveloped, and leaving it 
almost as though it had never been exposed. Unfortunately he 
didn't do it. He developed a test from each roll and finding that 
was all right, brought the whole lot back with him. It was all 
spoilt; scarcely anything of an image could be developed. And all 
his tests showed really brilliant photography. 

Among the few unpleasant things that happened about this time 
was the rascally behaviour of a well-connected man in London 
who certainly should have known better. He bought two or three 
copies of nearly everything we produced, but he sold ten or fifteen 
prints of each! It was horribly artful to buy more than one of each 
and so cover up his nefarious practices. 

After Rover, there is not very much in our immediate catalogue 
which calls for special notice. There is a very ambitious film, 
which bears the stamp of Fitzhamon's peculiar gift — Prehistoric 
Peeps, based upon the work of E. T. Reed of Punch, for which all 
the resources of the works were devoted to the building and 
painting of the wildest of wild animals; and there was a film on 
the Death of Nelson which was intended to synchronise with the 
playing and singing of the well-known song. Then there was a 
bright idea for depicting the growth of scandal from mouth to 
mouth, with the title of What the Curate Really Did, and then the 
first of a series of political pictures which was called The Aliens 9 
Invasion. A pantomime picture and a melodrama, each of 700 feet, 



69 



a horse picture called Dick Turpin and then the catalogue comes 
to an undignified end with a few short and quite insignificant 
nonentities. 

For with the apparently important number of one thousand 
and ninety-five, we had realised that the time had come to drop 
the making of short films, such as can be sold on a catalogue 
description, and to start making pictures on a very different 
scale — the sort that were afterwards called 'feature 5 films. 




Well, that is how it appeared to me at the first glance. But 
looking back rather more carefully I begin to perceive that it 
could not possibly have happened like that. There must have been 
a period, probably a long period, during which the transition very 
gradually took shape. I should think it kept step to some extent 
with the changes which were occurring in the showmanship side 
of the business. 

These changes were probably epitomised in the similar changes 
in our own village. The occasional fairs which visited us at 
regatta time did not come to us to buy their films, if they had any, 
which is doubtful, and I don't think we had a converted shop 
either. We did have a small village hall in the High Street for 
dances and bazaars and so on, and this was early converted into 
a sort of picture-house which had the field to itself for several 
years. Then a slightly larger hall was erected in Church Street 
and that became our 'Electric Palace.' Soon that was conquered 
in turn by a large picture theatre at the other end of the town — 
it could no longer be called a village — and then that in its turn 



70 



was compelled to share its audiences with the largest one of all 
— up to this present writing. 

This sort of thing was going on all over the country. First the 
fair-ground and the travelling exhibitor at the mechanics' institute 
and the like. Then the converted shop or two shops knocked into 
one, with benches for seats and very little ventilation. Next, the 
small hall rigged up as a palace; followed by the specially-built 
theatre, and then a much larger competitor; and finally a 'Super.' 
As all the earlier ones were infested by fleas — and infested is a 
mild word — they soon became known as 'flea-pits,' and some of 
them retain that pet-name still. 

There must have been a peculiarly voracious variety of flea, 
specialising in picture-houses, a Pulex Irritans Pictorialis, breeding 
with great exuberance in the cultural atmosphere of their chosen 
habitat. Luckily they have disappeared now from all except the 
least reputable of their haunts. 

It was outside the village hall at Walton, before it was raised to 
the status of a picture-house, that there occurred a little incident 
which is worth recording. We were filming some sort of story in 
which a street accident was concerned, probably a running-down 
by a motor-car, for that was the usual butt in those days. A 
dummy of a man was lying propped up against the wall of the 
building and there was a large crowd watching, for our activities 
were the great free entertainment of the day. 

A local doctor — a rather unpopular man as it happened — was 
cycling down a side-street and he quickened his pace when he saw 
the crowd. Then, noticing the injured man, as he thought, for he 
was a little short-sighted, he jumped quickly off his bike, un- 
strapped his bag of instruments, pushed aside the two 'policemen' 
bending over the body and — realised his mistake! He saw the 
camera but he tried to look unconcerned and at his ease as he 
mounted and rode away, followed by the laughter and cheers of 
the unsympathetic crowd. 

It was, I think, while the small picture-houses were gradually 
giving way to larger and ever larger ones, that our films — and 
those of our competitors too, of course — were slowly growing 
longer and bigger. I don't think we consciously visualised this 
change in advance; it marched so slowly and insidiously upon us 
that we scarcely noticed its coming. The half a dozen smaller 
producers continued to be small and to turn out small pictures. 
Fitzhamon was bigger and made bigger and longer films as he 



7i 



felt the need of time to develop his ideas. Percy Stow also needed 
room to expand his few but difficult trick pictures and Gaston 
Quiribet ('Q,'), the clever Frenchman who had recently joined 
the gang, contributed longer films which we were very glad to 
welcome. All that was noticeable on the surface was that there 
was a steady, if diminishing, flow of small films with occasional 
bigger ones coming to the top and demanding attention. 




72 



CHAPTER 7 

But I have allowed my story to gallop far ahead of my facts, 
and I must take you back nearly three years to the time of 
Rescued by Rover. 

It was shortly after Rescued by Rover — and perhaps because or on 
account of it, for it brought considerable grist to the mill — that I 
began to contemplate building an indoor studio for film-making. 
This was in the summer of 1905. I had nothing to go upon because, 
so far as I knew then, or indeed, so far as I know now, there was 
no studio in existence and working at that time. So all the con- 
ditions had to be envisaged and the details thrashed out in my 
own mind. There was no thought at all of a 'dark 5 studio; what I 
wanted was one that would let in as much as possible of the 
daylight while protecting us from rain and wind, but it must not 
cast any shadows. Ordinary window-glass would let through the 
maximum of light, but in sunshine there must always be the 
shadows of the wood or iron bars in which the glass is mounted. 
So I set about looking for a glass which would diffuse the sunshine 
and so kill the shadows but without greatly diminishing the 
amount of the light. After considerable experiment I hit upon 
Muranese glass which exactly fulfilled these conditions. It gives 
beautifully smooth flood -lighting but cuts off no more light-value 
than ordinary glass. 

But I realised, of course, that sunshine cannot be relied upon 
and I wanted to avoid the inconvenience of having to wait upon 
its vagaries. So I rigged up in our back garden — where all of this 
sort of thing had perforce to be done — an electric arc-lamp and 
tested as well as I could what additional help we might expect 
from this source. The result was our first studio. It was so shaped 
that the daylight could reach the acting floor from every reason- 
able point, including the space over the cameras, and, in addition, 
there was a row of hanging automatic arc-lamps and some more 
on stands which could be wheeled about into various positions. 



73 



!/fi 







74 



It was some very considerable time after this that all the 
principal American producers abandoned New York and shifted 
three thousand miles across their continent to Los Angeles so as 
to have almost continuous sunlight, and then, as soon as they got 
there, dug themselves into dark studios to keep the sunlight out! 
I couldn't make sense of this at first but I came to realise that 
what they really wanted to avoid was the hourly shifting of the 
sunlight, constantly altering the values of their pre-arranged 
scenery. Still, they could have accomplished all that by remaining 
on the East side, where all actors, technicians and supplies were 
ready to their hands. Expense is wrought by want of thought as 
well as want of art. 

Our studio was built at first-floor height so as to be that much 
above the level of surrounding houses, and the space underneath 
was devoted to three printing and developing machines — same 
old pattern — drying-rooms, mechanics' shops and so on. One 
small room in front between the main dark-room and the road 
was the perforating room with half a dozen motor-driven Debrie 
perforators, for it was not until considerably later that the film- 
stock makers took over the perforating as part of their responsi- 
bility. 

It is curious to note how little faith is put by builders and folk 
of that sort in the ideas of people who are young and inexperienced 
but not necessarily silly. I designed this small building, made the 
plans and all necessary drawings and submitted them for an 
estimate to a local builder of good repute. His first response was 
to say, 'That roof won't work; it can't be built; it will 'wind'.' 
I didn't agree but in the end I had to make a scale model in 
cardboard to prove that I was right. 

Then again, I had allowed a space of six feet square for a 
staircase turning three right-angles to the first floor. He made no 
comment on this but just altered the measurement to six-by-^A/ 
feet. But a staircase of this description, whatever its size, must be 
square at its base. When the building was up he found this out 
and had to put in an additional inner wall in accord with my 
measurement, and that two foot of wasted space is there to this 
day. 

When the studio was built and ready for work I put down a sort 
of railway for the wheeled camera-stand to run on, to make what 
are now called 'tracking shots,' which had not by then been 
heard of. Also we used a panoramic head so as to follow the actors 



75 



as they moved about the scene, until we were informed by America 
— then our biggest customer — that Americans would not stand 
these movements and we must keep the camera stationary. Think 
of American films today when the camera is scarcely ever still for 
two seconds at a time! 

I don't say the Americans learned anything from us for that is 
not at all likely, but I do say that we learned a very great deal 
from them, though I for one admit that I learned too slowly. 
Brought up in the stage tradition it seemed to me for years that 
in all general views you must photograph your actors as they 
appear on the stage, full length from head right down to feet, and 
only in admitted close-ups could you omit unnecessary limbs. But 
the American films unblushingly cut them off at the knees or even 
higher when they could show important details more easily that 
way. It looked all wrong to me at first but I soon gave way and 
adopted the new technique. The American films which were 
beginning to come over in quantities about then, showed also far 
better photographic quality, particularly in definition, indicating 
much better lenses than we were using. So we had to hunt around 
for better lenses, which soon brought us to the German opticians 
and their wonderful Jena glass. 

We were still printing the third edition of Rover, for beside fresh 
demands from new customers, earlier buyers were wearing out 
their copies and demanding reprints. Also the demand for our 
short films was increasing in many other countries in various parts 
of the world, and a large share of our attention was necessarily 
devoted to the growing demands of the dark-rooms, apart from 
the need of producing a steady stream of new subjects. 

Some of the best of the small films in production at this time — 
early 1906 — under the aegis of our producer, Lewin Fitzhamon, 
were expanded into series and so came to have the significance of 
big ones while retaining the cheapness and saleability of 'shorts.' 

A notable series of this class started with Tilly the Tomboy, in 
which the name part was played by Unity More. It was an 
instant success, but for some reason this clever little dancer was 
not available when we wanted to make another. But we had two 
other little girls, just as clever and already on the fringe of our 
stock-company, Chrissie White and Alma Taylor. Which should 
be chosen to carry on the good work? They were both thoroughly 
mischievous by nature and equally suitable. Choosing became too 
invidious. The Gordian knot was cut by taking them both and 



76 



they kept the series going (and 'going* is a very mild way of 
putting it) for several years. 

Perhaps it should be explained that the great aim and object 
of these Tilly girls, in their pictures, was to paint the town 
extremely red, and the joyfully disarming way in which they 
thoroughly did it was the great charm of these delightful little 
comedies. Mischief without any sting in it is the one unfailing 
recipe for child-story pictures. Fitz, who loves children as much 
as I do, knew just exactly how to bring it out. 

When, long ago, a certain bright spirit cried out, 'Oh that mine 
enemy would write a book!' he was obviously inspired by an 
impious longing to tear that book to pieces. I may paraphrase 
that cry here with one just as heart-felt, 'Oh that my friend had 
kept a diary,' for I am up against the greatest difficulty, indeed, 
impossibility, of fixing the dates of a lot of the things I want to 
write about. Consequently, mine enemy, when he gets down to 
it, will have much to get his teeth into, and my friends are so 
much the poorer. 

I would like to write about the different makes of film-stock, 
for instance. Film-stock is the one absolutely essential material of 
film-making, just as paper is the raw material of making books. 
Negative -stock is the highly sensitive film which is used in cameras 
— the 'paper' that the author writes upon — and the less sensitive 
positive-stock is that upon which the many copies are printed 
from the original negative; the 'paper' the book is made with. 

It is primarily upon the quality of these raw materials that the 
technical quality of the finished pictures depends, and, since 
film-stock has been growing steadily better for fifty years, it stands 
to reason that it could not have been nearly so good in the 
beginning. The first piece of American negative-stock I bought 
was extremely thin at one end and four or five times as thick at the 
other. It was seventy-five feet long. Early Lumiere positive-stock 
frequently suffered from the same fault and had, moreover, the 
distressing peculiarity of turning deep yellow after a little while. 
Later on the Pathe negative-stock had greater speed than any 
other at the time, but was rather too 'contrasty' for my taste. 

The film-stock makers had their own troubles, no doubt, and 
one of them was the difficulty of finding a suitable substratum — 
an undercoat upon the celluloid to make the gelatine emulsion 
adhere to it properly. One of the first of the film-stock makers to 
come into contact with me was a nice chap named Haddow, I 



77 



think. He belonged somewhere up north and his product was 
marketed with the name of the European Blair Camera Company 
under the management of Cricks, who afterwards became promi- 
nent in the film-picture world as the moving spirit of the firm of 
Cricks & Martin. 

Another was Birt Acres, who, many years earlier, in 1893, had 
given the show of films at the Royal Wedding at Marlborough 
House when I helped him with the electric-lamp arrangements. 
He swam into my orbit again when we opened a second time at 
Cecil Court and he had long conversations with me about all sorts 
of things, including his film-stock which, on the whole, was quite 
good though sometimes unreliable. 

There was one dreadful time which I shall not easily forget. I 
am not sure but I think it must have been in the long, long week 
when we were printing day and night to meet the great demand 
for copies of our Queen Victoria Funeral films. Anyhow, I know 
it was after a whole night of printing, when in the dawn, we went 
up into the drying-rooms to have a look at our night's work before 
we went home to bed. According to our practice at the time all 
the thousands of feet of film was hung up in crowded festoons from 
hooks on wires along the ceiling. And we found that for the whole 
of its length, every foot, every inch, the gelatine with the pictures 
on it had parted company from the celluloid as it dried, and the two 
were hanging separately in the festoons — two loops instead of one! 
The substratum had failed, or perhaps by an accident, been omitted. 
We slunk down to the dark-room and started all over again. 

All the very early film-stock makers in this country, except one, 
have now faded out of the picture. That one, by sheer effort and 
by insistence upon quality and fair dealing, has attained and 
retained the premier position both here and in America. We owe 
much to Kodak for the very sustenance of our career. 

There was another very curious failure which occurred very 
occasionally in these drying-rooms but I don't think it had causal 
connection with the film-stock. The trouble took the form of 
hundreds of thousands of little faint white spots which appeared 
all over the film when it was drying. This only happened two or 
three times, but each time it affected the whole roomful of film 
at once, and when that was cleared it did not recur in any form 
until the next time, and then again the whole roomful was spoilt. 

I gave a lot of thought to this puzzle and reviewed very care- 
fully the conditions in which it happened. The drying-rooms were 



78 



heated by ordinary gas-stoves in the fireplaces, with the elemen- 
tary safety provision of wire fire-guards — a very shocking and 
blameworthy practice when you are dealing with celluloid, but 
that had nothing to do with the present puzzle. As I saw it the air 
was warm and damp, there was moisture everywhere and there 
was moist gelatine with a small quantity of glycerine in it to keep 
it pliable. And the symptom never occurred in small doses: 
either there was no sign of it or the whole shooting match was 
affected. 

Should I have said mfected, I wondered? Here were all the 
optimum conditions for a gelatine culture of micro-organisms — 
and in the air there are bacteria everywhere. The films were 
suffering from a disease which attacked them like an epidemic. 
If this suggested deduction were correct the cure was obvious and 
easy. Any bactericidal disinfectant which would not harm the 
film ought to scotch the disease. So I added a trace of formalde- 
hyde to the final bath of very diluted glycerine and water, and 
the trouble disappeared, never again to return. 

While the films were young and still short enough to be easily 
handled, we introduced the staining of various scenes to enhance 
the effect as I have already mentioned in the case of the Scott- 
Brown films — blue for night, red for firelight and so on. Then we 
sometimes added toning, quite a different chemical process which 
often gave very attractive results, and this sort of work continued 
until a foreign film-stock maker, Gevaert, I think, began making 
film with the stain incorporated in the celluloid, which saved us a 
lot of trouble, but added the difficulty that we had to sort out the 
film-stock into colours before we started printing. 

When I visited Rochester, New York, I tried to persuade George 
Eastman — a delightful personality, by the way — to let me have 
film-stock in thousand-foot lengths, instead of my having to join 
up the short rolls to suit my developing machines. But he said 
that although he made and coated in that length it was more 
convenient to cut to the four hundred and two hundred foot 
lengths that other people wanted and he could not make special 
arrangements for me. 

It was quite early in his career that Stanley Faithfull, despite 
his manifest inexperience, was sent up to Glasgow and other 
places in Scotland to sell films — his first long journey ever, and 
one that brought him a rather unhappy experience. In the train 
coming back, an old Scotsman, drinking heavily, suddenly missed 



79 



his money and loudly accused Stanley of having robbed him. The 
guard was called and eventually the train was stopped at a 
subsequent station to take a detective on board. Then it was that 
the old man, sobered a little, found the missing money in his 
waistcoat pocket. His abject and slobbery repentance was more 
difficult to bear than his false accusations. So the Scotch Express 
was stopped to vindicate Stan's honour. 

I am in fact a most law-abiding person, and do not willingly 
break the smallest rules. But I hate the law and loathe actions at 
law. I would do almost anything rather than embark upon one. 
It was in the law-courts that I first met Will Barker. Whether it 
was the atmosphere of the place I do not know but I took an 
instant dislike to him. It cannot have been instinctive because I 
found out that I was utterly wrong. In fact, he became a very 
good companion and latterly one of my dearest friends. He came 
to my rescue once and took shares — which I now believe he 
guessed were worthless, though / didn't know it — in a little 
company I had started and was trying to keep alive. We were 
competitors almost from the beginning, friends from when we 
found each other out, volunteers together in the war of 14-18, and 
competitors again when we had finished with films. He may have 
been a rough diamond but he is diamond all right, through and 
through. 

The law case I am alluding to was one brought by, or against, 
Charles Urban concerning his exclusive use of the word 'Bioscope' 
to describe a film projector he was marketing. I think he would 
have succeeded if he had not been, ill-advisedly, calling his 
machine the 'Urban-Bioscope.' It was held that he had been, in 
effect, declaring that there were other Bioscopes and he could not 
now turn round and claim that his was the only one. 

One law case proverbially leads to another so I may be excused, 
perhaps, for jumping ahead to one in which my own company 
was involved. Phillips Oppenheim had written, among many 
others, a novel called The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss, from 
which Henry Edwards produced a film for us. In the book and 
film, there was described a rascally theatrical agent of the name 
of Montague. Certainly there was no thought of pointing to any 
existing individual. But there was one individual of that name 
who chose to think that the cap was intended to fit him and he 
took action against us for libel or slander or defamation — I 
forget how it was worded. The great Marshall Hall was briefed 



80 




IP 




^ 

sT 
^ 






^ 

^ 



for the plaintiff and he paid us the compliment of publicly 
declaring his very high opinion of the Hepworth films. 

His junior, in outlining the cause of complaint, listed the many 
wickednesses of the mythical Mr. Montague and among the other 
evils he said, ' — he even seduced his typewriter.' Phillips Oppen- 
heim was sitting next to me in the court and I heard him mutter 
in a loud stage whisper, 'Typist, my dear fellow. Typist. You can't 
seduce a typewriter.' 

Luckily, not only for us but for all other film-makers, the case 
was lost. If it had succeeded we should all have been at the mercy 
of anyone, honest or otherwise, who chose to consider himself 
defamed by some description in a film. 

Here is another film case which, unluckily for us, we lost, but 
whether it was fortunate or unfortunate for the film trade as a 
whole is a moot point. If we had succeeded it would certainly 
have had immense and far-reaching effects throughout the whole 
industry. 

We were employing, for the most part, completely unknown 
artists in our films and of necessity publicising their appearance 
and skill. When the time came when we wanted to advertise them, 
both on the screen and in the press, by posters and by 'stills,' I 
foresaw that what was beginning to happen to other firms would 
certainly happen to us. An actor had the value which was due to 
his own good work. He also had a fortuitous value, not contributed 
by him, and due to the money spent in advertising him. That 
accumulated value he was free — unless, and only for so long as, 
he was under contract — to sell to any rival firm for as much as he 
could get. His new firm would, of necessity, add to that increased 
value and the process would go on, higher and higher, until the 
producers were impoverished and the actors near millionaires. 
That, indeed, has largely come to pass and it is one of the reasons 
why the film production industry is nearly always in difficulties. 

My panacea was probably not a good one. I suggested that 
unknown actors should receive a nom-de-guerre, a pseudonym, 
which should be our property and under which we would adver- 
tise him without risking the loss of all we spent on him if he 
should migrate to a rival firm. The suggestion was submitted to 
the unknown actors who seemed to consider it fair, and also for 
counsel's opinion, which also was that it was fair and could be 
upheld. Consequently John McMahon became John Mac- 
Andrews, Kaynes became Jack Raymond, Wernham Ryott 



81 



became Stewart Rome and so on. When he came back from the 
war Ryott went straight to Broadwest and we took action against 
him and lost. 

I do not wish to quarrel with the verdict although it was 
suggested that I was trying to do the actor out of his living. That, 
of course, was a gross exaggeration. What I was trying to do was 
to prevent the actor, unintentionally and perhaps against his will, 
being used as a pawn in a game which might lead to the destruc- 
tion of the industry which was providing that living. My suggested 
method may have been quite wrong but I am convinced that if 
the something that I was striving for could have been brought 
about by another and perhaps more equitable method, the 
industry would today be far more healthy than it is and the actors 
collectively much better off. For see what happens now. Mr. A is 
an actor: Mr. B is, say, an electrician. Both do some particularly 
good work and hope, as we all should, that they will get better 
pay because of it. Mr. A is in the limelight, or rather the electric 
light thrown upon him, literally by Mr. B, and he catches the eye 
of the public — Mr. B does not. A gets his rise, but a rival firm 
comes along and offers him double. That is doubled again when 
another firm steals him, and in a very little while he is getting a 
thousand pounds a week — Mr. B is still getting ten. Then someone 
says B is quite right, he ought to have at least twenty, yes, and all 
his colleagues' wages should be doubled too ; never mind what 
they would be getting in another trade — they are in the film 
industry. It does not take much prescience to see what is happen- 
ing; has indeed, happened already. Wages and salaries have risen 
so greatly, so far in excess of the natural rise due to money 
depreciation, that it has become an uneconomic proposition to 
produce picture-plays. America is in like case, but the market there 
is four times as large as ours and they may be able to win through. 

It seems that here there must be something in the nature of a 
complete revolution to put the industry on its feet. It would be 
better to have all wages and the like reduced to half than have 
them cut out altogether but that, I expect, would be politically 
impossible. Perhaps the whole system must collapse to the ground, 
and then there may be a chance to begin all over again on sounder 
lines. I am certain that, given the right conditions, good films — 
as good as any we have had — could be produced at a fraction of 
their present cost. 

It is not only the amount of the wages but the very large 



82 



number of people drawing them that is throttling the production 
business. Here is a list of the technicians engaged in one unit of 
a modern studio. The names are omitted : — 

Producer, associate producer, production supervisor, studio 
manager, unit production manager, director, second direc- 
tor, first assistant director, second assistant director, third 
assistant director, continuity, assistant continuity, lighting 
camera-man, camera operator, camera focus, camera loader, 
clappers, art director, assistant art director, set dresser, sound 
supervisor, sound mixer, sound camera, boom operator, 
assistant boom operator, editor, assistant editor, make-up 
supervisor, assistant make-up, hairdressing supervisor, hair- 
dressing assistant, wardrobe supervisor, wardrobe master, 
wardrobe assistant, wardrobe mistress, wardrobe assistant 
mistress, chief electrician, floor electrician, property master, 
floor props, assistant floor props, construction manager, 
stand-by carpenter, stand-by stage hand, stand-by rigger, 
stand-by painter, stand-by plasterer, stand-by rigger (grips) ! 

'So all fleas have lesser fleas upon their backs to bite 'em. 5 We 
mustn't, however, blame the fleas; they are the products of a 
system which they have done nothing to create. Consider the case 
of a thoroughly competent camera-man — used to the job from 
his boyhood. Suppose he is engaged by a modern studio and is 
told he will have for assistants, a camera loader, a camera un- 
loader, a camera operator and a man to focus the camera for him. 
You could not expect him to say, 'Oh, rubbish! I can do all those 
things myself and then have time on my hands.' 

Go into any studio you like, anywhere, and you will find twenty 
to thirty people standing about in the set, apparently doing 
nothing; and you will more often find, to your sorrow, that the 
studio is empty — lifeless and cold. 

But this consideration of latter-day studio conditions is very far 
ahead of my proper chronological position, from which I was 
lured by taking three law cases together although they were 
really several years apart. The last one led me naturally to con- 
sider how modern conditions might have been modified if that 
case had ended differently. I dislike law cases intensely and I 
thank my generally cheerful guardian angel that there are no more 
to be recounted. Now I must get back to the time when Stanley 
Faithfull had only recently joined the staff. 



8 3 



I tried very hard to run the business on decent and human lines 
and never has any man been more loyally and faithfully served 
than I was. Everybody in the place was expected to be ready and 
willing to do any mortal thing and there was never a thought of 
overtime and never a trace of disinclination to take on a job which, 
in these days, similar workers would think 'beneath them.' Only 
in the studio would there sometimes be a feeling that a lady who 
had played 'lead' in one film ought not to have to 'walk on' as a 
servant-maid with a single line in the next. But the motto in the 
studio was 'Walk on — or Walk off,' and it came to be understood 
that people who were too good to play small parts as well as 
bigger ones were altogether too good for us. Before Geoffrey 
Faithfull became chief camera-man he was asked to 'stand in' for 
Dolly Lupone who was frightened to throw herself down in front 
of a swiftly approaching horse and trap. He did it with such 
abandon that he cut himself pretty badly on the stone road. 

Sometimes when we were not busy and the weather was fine 
and warm there would be a sudden unexpected half-holiday so 
that we could all go swimming together or do what else seemed 
preferable. In the winter on the few days when the ice was bearing, 
a half-holiday, not expected or asked for, was doubly welcome. 
Holidays, planned beforehand, wet or fine, and doled out almost 
as part of one's wages hold nothing like the same happiness and 
welcome. 

Of course boys being — as by tradition they are supposed to be 
— boys, got up to a good many larks which only came to my 
knowledge in much later years, though sometimes I knew more 
than I was supposed to know, but kept my own counsel. A recur- 
ring feature was a trick played upon every new boy when he first 
arrived. He was told to hold out the front of his trousers as far as 
he could. Then with his head bent backwards a penny was 
balanced on his nose and if he could tip it into the trouser-front 
he could keep it. But in the meantime another boy tipped a jug- 
ful of cold water into that receptacle — which must have been very 
uncomfortable. 

Stanley and Geoffrey Faithfull, already mentioned, were too 
wise for these amusements, or perhaps too wary to be caught. If 
I have mentioned them a little before their proper time it is 
probably because they have always been such staunch friends to 
me that they are constantly in my thoughts. 

Stanley joined in the early spring of 1906 and Geoffrey just a 



84 



year later, each at six shillings a week. They have solemnly 
assured me lately that they both thought that was excellent pay 
for learners and that all the rest of the staff considered themselves 
very well paid too. I do hope they were right but it seems rather 
dreadful to look back at now. I am perfectly certain, however, 
that all the people in the employment of the firm were really 
contented and happy. We were none of us financially well off — 
for my own drawings were small too — but I think there is no 
doubt whatever that we were all really happily engaged in work 
which we loved. 




85 



CHAPTER 8 

Suddenly, in 1907, out of the blue, came disaster, bringing grief 
and dismay to all of us: cutting sharply across our lives, leaving a 
dreadful memory which for most of us will never be effaced. The 
thing which is feared above all others by those who work with 
celluloid, if they have any imagination at all. Fire! Fire, so swift 
and terrible that it is almost an explosion. 

I had left a little early that evening in order to call at a club 
quite near to my house. One of our men came by on a bicycle and 
called out to me across the hedge that the works was on fire. I 
rushed and got out the car and drove as quickly as I could, but 
even as I started I could see the column of smoke rising above all 
the houses. I hadn't wasted much time but the fire was half over 
when I got there. All the staff were crowded in the road in front 
of the blazing building, and to my first frantic question they 
assured me that they had accounted for everyone. But then, when 
to make sure, I ran over the names of all the people engaged at 
the time, it appeared that one, William Lane, was not among 
them. He was presumed to have run off home in terror, for it was 
in his room that the fire started. With that, I had to be content 
for the m)oment, but I sent a messenger at once to the lad's home 
to find out whether he was there. 

Strange how in moments of deep distress, tiny utterly unimpor- 
tant things will insist upon thrusting themselves into your con- 
sciousness and will not be silenced. The dark-rooms were nearest 
to the road and every developing machine had an electric alarm- 
bell to give notice when attention was needed. The fire had burnt 
these machines away and set all those dreadful bells ringing. In 
the dread silence, broken only by the hiss of the water from the 
fire engines, that horrible shrill tinkling went on and on as if it 
would persist to the very end of time. The batteries should run 
down, we hoped, and prayed, but still the maddening sound went 



86 



on. Then the messenger came back and said that William Lane 
had not been at home. 

As soon as the place was bearable for entry, I went in with the 
local policeman and the first thing we did was to stop those bells. 
Then we crept through the slush of the blackened rooms and made 
our way into the little perforating-room where the poor lad had 
been working and where the fire, they all said, had started. I still 
clung to the slender hope that he had not been there, but we found 
his body leaning back in a corner, a black cinder, shrunk to half 
its size. Only one foot was left with any likeness to human flesh, 
where it had been protected by the boot. 

We lifted him out as tenderly as we could and laid him far away 
from the desolation where he had died. Then I had to go and tell 
his mother and father what had happened. They were already 
fearing it must be so, for they had heard nothing since the mes- 
senger had left them. There was nothing I could do except try 
to answer their questions and show a little of the sympathy I so 
wretchedly felt. 

And when I got back there was still nothing I could do. The fire 
was quenched, half the people had crept away to their own homes 
and even the firemen were packing up their gear. Truly the 
thread of all our lives had been cut right across. 

The next day was the first of several dreary days, in which we 
tried to measure what we had lost and how much we could rescue 
from the ruins — what chance we had of starting again. I won't 
dwell any further on this unhappy time, but will try to tell of the 
many gleams of sunshine which struggled through the gloom now 
and again and began to point the way to some recovery. 

There was that wonderful gesture from a man I scarcely knew 
— I think I had only met him once. His name was Jordan and he 
lived with his family in one of the little houses just opposite the 
studio. He came up to me when I was looking at the wreck next 
morning and he said that he knew how a calamity like that might 
easily catch a man very short of money for a time. He said that he 
had two hundred and fifty pounds doing nothing at his bank and 
I could have it in a few minutes and that he could raise as much 
again in two or three days if I should need it. When I went home 
later and told my wife about it, we felt that things could not be 
finished when there were people like that to help. As it happened 
I did not need money but that does not alter the fact that this was 
a most amazing and heartening gesture. 



87 



I received a lot of advice, too, of course, not always very wise 
or good. One thing that all sorts of people kept on dinning into 
me was that insurance companies always beat you down in your 
claims and that the only way to get your due recompense was to 
increase your claim by twenty-five or thirty per cent. I thought 
this over carefully and then I made up my mind. I would not add 
a penny on to anything. I would claim only the actual cost or 
value and I would make them pay my just claim. 

Our policy was with the Royal Exchange Insurance Company. 
When they received the claim they sent down an assessor to check 
it. He was a very wise and careful man but very strict and pains- 
taking in his methods. He spent several days on the job and this 
is how he began: — There were very many windows and the glass 
had been blown out of all of them. I had claimed for fluted glass 
at tenpence a square foot. He picked up some tiny pieces and 
said this is not fluted glass; it is ordinary window glass at twopence- 
halfpenny a foot. I said it is fluted glass and he said it wasn't. So 
I suggested he should talk to some of the workpeople about the 
place. He did and they all confirmed what I had said. The pieces 
he had found were all too small to show the fluting but I think he 
grubbed up a little larger piece somewhere. Anyhow, he gave in. 

And this is how he finished. The last single claim was for just 
over a thousand pounds for a large quantity of raw film-stock 
which had been stored in the perforating-room ready for use. 
There was nothing to show for it but some hundreds of crumpled 
tin boxes smothered in the black ashes of burnt celluloid. He 
looked at the few invoices we were able to produce, gazed at the black 
cinders which we said had been film — and passed the claim in full. 

You will ask, as the coroner did, how it came about that the 
young fellow could not make his escape the instant the fire started. 
This is the more extraordinary when it is realised that by stretch- 
ing his arms he could, without moving, touch both door and 
window and that both door and window were only lightly latched 
and one opened outwards. 

I have tried so often to reconstruct the fatal moment and the 
best I can arrive at is that he had matches with him, though that 
was forbidden; that one dropped on the cement floor and he trod 
on it by accident and so ignited some bits of loose film that had 
fallen there; that he then tried to stamp out the flame and so lost 
the couple of seconds in which he might have made his escape. 

Never, never try to deal with burning celluloid. I hate to see 



88 



any kind of fire-extinguishers standing about in places where film 
is used, for I know that if people try to put out a film fire they will 
almost certainly fail, and in the attempt, may lose their only 
chance of saving their own lives. 

This tragic fire was a staggering blow from which we only 
slowly began to recover. There was, of course, a tremendous 
amount of rather sickening work to be done; work which was not 
productive in any way but was merely directed towards the sal- 
vage and repair of anything which could possibly be saved. The 
outer walls remained standing and part of the roof, but most of 
the flooring was destroyed. All the perforators and their motors 
had gone completely and there was very little left of the developing 
machines. It was a miserable time and the only bright thing 
about it was the cheerful willingness with which everybody set 
about the doing of everything that was possible. 

Meanwhile, plans for the future had to be gone into and 
considered. Before the fire we had already begun to feel rather 
cramped not only in studio space but in the matter of such 
subsidiary things as extra dressing-rooms and a 'green-room' for 
the artists, extra drying-rooms for the films and a whole lot of 
other things which we had wanted but had had to do without. I 
began trying to scheme out how we could turn as much as pos- 
sible of our ill-fortune into good and decided to build a bigger 
and better studio. So while the old one was being rebuilt so far as 
was necessary to put it into thorough repair, and all hands were 
turning to replacing and reinstating the damaged and burnt-out 
machinery, I was making plans for the extension of the whole plant. 

The new studio was to be just like the old one only larger and 
was to be placed parallel with it but at a sufficient distance away 
to leave a kind of square or courtyard between them. The square 
was to be completed by connecting the two front ends with dark- 
rooms and drying rooms and the two rear ends with a mechanics' 
shop below and a scene-dock above. 

As soon as the old dark-rooms were ready again we started in 
to complete such of our orders as had not been cancelled and also 
to prepare as far as possible for future business. We had a large 
export trade at that time including a standing order from 
America for either thirty or forty copies — at our discretion — of 
every subject that we produced. This meant not only a great 
deal of printing but also a very large amount of work after the 
actual printing was finished. For all the films by this time had 



89 




90 



come to consist of a large number of different scenes most of 
which had a title in front or an inserted title of spoken words. 
These titles could not be inserted in the negative because in the 
case of foreign orders the titles had to be in the language of the 
country in which they were to be shown. There was, therefore, 
for every picture negative, a roll of negative titles for each of the 
countries who ordered prints. A quite elaborate system of signals 
painted on the negative where each title was to come had to be 
evolved, for you could not expect an examining-room girl to know 
how to insert, say, each Russian title in the proper place or even 
right way up. 

The same applied (only more so!) to films which were printed 
in different sections on variously coloured celluloid. For con- 
venience the sections of any one colour were grouped and printed 
together. They had to be separated afterwards and assembled 
according to a similar signalling system. It required some thinking 
out, but, once established, the system worked without any 
difficulty. 

I have now got to a place — its date is somewhere in 1908 — 
where my reconstituted diary shows a jumble of events with very 
little sequence and several completely blank pages. It could 
perhaps be taken apart and its contents fitted together again in 
order of time and little watertight compartments, but that would, 
I think, rob them of both significance and interest. Order of date 
is all very well for people with Catalogue minds' but order of 
events is much more important, for dates are stupid things; they 
merely follow one another like convicts walking in line, but 
events act and re-act together and flash their influence to and fro 
almost endlessly. 

It is most likely that the blankness of the pages is due to the 
hiatus which must have occurred at this time. The original studio 
and all the work-rooms had been destroyed by fire and were now 
being rebuilt; the second studio, nearly double its size, had had 
its foundations cut out and its walls were going up as rapidly as 
could be expected, but the little ants' nest had been badly dis- 
turbed and with all the industry in the world it is clear that there 
must have been considerable interruption in its output. 

There must have been a time when from the present point of 
view, nothing of importance was happening, and from the scanty 
records that I am able to piece together, I can find very little 
except trivialities, which are scarcely worth recording here. We 



9i 



were, of course, rebuilding our walls and workshops and, in a 
sense, rebuilding our own lives. Looking back upon that time I 
think there must have been a subconscious urge in all of us to 
cling together as people are apt to do after a shipwreck upon an 
unknown shore — an instinctive response to an unrealised need of 
mutual support. 

I had, a little while before the fire, tried an experiment which 
many other employers have tried without great success. It was to 
form a little games and social club for the staff to meet in the 
evenings and enjoy one another's company. For we all lived in 
what was then little more than a village and there was small 
opportunity for recreation. I might have anticipated the result. 
However much people who meet and work together all day may 
like each other, they naturally prefer a change when they are not 
at work. The idea started off well enough but it gradually petered 
out. The only part that survived, and that probably because of 
my own enthusiasm, was the group of unaccompanied glee- 
singers. 

I have a vivid recollection of this little company around the 
open grave of their comrade who had perished in the fire, singing 
a hymn as a simple requiem to his memory. It was two or three 
years before this that I had started to get together a little choir of 
our workers for unaccompanied part-singing once a week during 
the winter. One or two friends were roped in later to swell the 
choir and we all enjoyed those weekly rehearsals very much. We 
were sixteen strong by 1908. One of our first ventures was carol 
singing at Christmas time. We all carried Chinese lanterns which 
were lighted up outside the gate of the house we were going to 
attack. Then we marched slowly up the drive singing the 'First 
Nowell.' I think it sounded good and it certainly looked good. 
Arrived at the front door we changed to another carol or two and 
then we were sent away with a sixpence or shilling, or perhaps we 
were invited in. After the first year people began to expect us and 
to welcome us, and we came to know which houses were better 
avoided. 

At one house we visited there was a large evening party in 
progress and as soon as we were heard approaching, the front door 
was flung open, the lights in the house were put out and we were 
ushered into a large room where the only light was that from our 
lanterns. We went through our repertoire of carols and more 
difficult part-songs and there was no doubt about the pleasure of 



92 



our hosts, who gave us a couple of pounds for our selected charity 
and champagne and cakes for ourselves. This part-singing enter- 
prise was continued for several years and, indeed, led afterwards 
to much more ambitious efforts in the shape of light operas with 
orchestra and dresses and scenery and all the rest of it, but that is 
another story which I may touch upon later. 

To get back to the film work (which I submit was none the 
worse for these happy interludes) I find that Fitzhamon had been 
with us for more than two years at this time. He was very busy 
and his curious Puck-like mind kept on evolving strange ideas 
which were often quite successful. In one letter he writes under 
date December 3rd, to an actor: Tf there is a heavy fall of snow this 
month I shall be glad to continue that sleigh picture commenced 
two seasons ago.' I could not in a hundred words give so good an 
impression of the times we worked in then. 

One of our first attempts at publicity was the regular production 
of 'stills' — ordinary still photographs of selected events which, in 
the course of the film, occur in movement. We were a little late 
in adopting this comparatively easy way of publicising our 
activities, because I have always been rather against the use of 
stills. To say that one of these frozen pictures stands for and 
represents an intricate play of movement seems to me like taking 
a single chord from a musical score and saying that that represents 
a symphony. 

Although I never ostensibly occupied the position of producer 
until a much later date, feeling that such special work should be 
entrusted to those who had been brought up to it as stage- 
managers or the like, I did take a very considerable part in 
supervising all that was going on. To this, I suppose, must be 
attributed the fact that all the films that came from the house of 
Hepworth had a certain likeness or style by which they were 
recognisable, in spite of the vastly different character of their 
subjects. The subjects, indeed, varied very largely — comics, 
dramas, news, actualities, comedies and stories of all kinds from 
books and plays. 

In Rover Drives a Car (though I don't think that was really the 
name of the film), a dog steals the kidnapper's car and actually 
drives the baby home! That car was a wide open one with no such 
thing as hood or windscreen, but it had a fairly deep apron in 
front under which I was just able to conceal myself and put up an 
unobtrusive hand to hold the lower edge of the steering wheel. 



93 



The dog sat on the driver's seat with his paws on the upper side 
of the wheel and the baby sat beside him, thoroughly enjoying 
the novel experience. I wonder what the police would say if we 
attempted that on the public road today! Baby's Playmate came 
soon after this and then a second fine film dealing again with the 
Black Beauty theme, in which that sagacious horse calls a fire- 
engine to save the baby from a burning hay-rick. And then, near 
the end of the year that blessed infant was being rescued again, 
but this time by an elephant! 

None of these films was very long and it must not be supposed 
that we were producing no others while all this was going on. I 
am just picking these out because they seem to me to be suffi- 
ciently unusual to be interesting. What with me and my dogs and 
Fitzhamon and his horses — and even elephants — we were doing 
quite a good trade in animal pictures. At one time we even had a 
snake! I was told he was quite harmless but he was over four feet 
long and it took me quite a time to get to like him well enough to 
wear him round my neck and to caress him for the encouragement 
of the actress who had to fondle him. His end was untimely for 
we lost him one day in Ashley Park and never heard of him again. 
We thought it better not to make enquiries. 

In the following year, the animal theme continued with 
further variations. In A Plucky Little Girl, a rather older child this 
time, with the help of her dog, is successful in capturing a criminal 
— always a safe bet — and the same theme in different forms 
persists for some years later, but here we will leave it and change 
the point of view entirely to take a peep at what was happening 
to our films on the other side of the Atlantic about this time. 

It was in or about the year 1909 that the internecine film war 
in America culminated in the formation of a trust whose object, 
so far as we were concerned, was to put a stop to the import of 
English and other European films. It was met by the formation of 
a counter-trust in the shape of the International Projecting and 
Producing Company who arranged for the introduction of 
foreign films on the same terms as those paid by the members of 
the trust for their privilege; half a cent per foot. So that we 
continued to export to America for some considerable time. 

It was at about this time that the news-reels actually got into 
their stride and took their very important share in the making of 
entertainment for our picture-theatres. It is interesting to remem- 
ber that the Hepworth Company had once been, and for a long 



94 



time, the acknowledged best in the production of news pictures, 
but we willingly relinquished that position when we were able to 
transfer the same credit to the gentler art of story-telling. But I 
had always held the view from the very start that news films were 
destined to become, and indeed very shortly did become, the 
backbone of the moving pictures; and it may be that if and when 
story pictures should go into a temporary decline — which is by no 
means impossible — news-reels, and particularly their bigger 
brothers, the so-called documentary films, may step into the 
breach and hold the fort until a better type of story-picture comes 
to be produced. And after that, I should think, they will never give 
up the place they will have so fairly won. 

It was said at one time, and it is still largely true, that cinema 
audiences were of an average mental age of eleven to thirteen 
years. Ordinary human beings of that age inevitably grow up and 
as they grow their tastes mature and their contentment in mere 
story books gives way to a desire for more serious reading. It may 
happen; it may, perhaps, be beginning to happen even now, that 
picture audiences may evolve along similar lines and come to 
desire some sterner material among that which is merely enter- 
taining. 

Such ideas are looked upon as revolutionary by most people in 
'the Trade' and the holders of them regarded as rebels, but I find 
them interesting to talk with and I like to hear their views. 
Several such people swam into our orbit about this time and many 
of them continued to revolve with us for a considerable period, 
while others shot off into space again after a little while. Among 
these latter was a very nice Dutch actor-producer named Bauer- 
meister, whom we were very glad to have and sorry to lose. I 
suppose there was no particular niche into which he fitted but his 
presence was a welcome influence while it lasted. 

Another who had a much more far-reaching influence upon us 
was the genial American, Larry Trimble, but of him I shall have 
much more to say a little later on, and there were several others 
who cropped up in my life from time to time who will, no doubt, 
crop up in these pages as I come to them. 

Words of wisdom may flow at times from unexpected sources. 
A man in a high position whom I know very well, worked himself 
up into a rage over something jocular I said to him, meaning no 
offence. I know that when he is in a temper he is much more 
likely to speak the truth than at other times so I listened atten- 



95 



tively. He said, 'You ought to keep a better guard on your tongue, 
Heppy. You are offending people right and left. That is why you 
don't get on in the world — that's how you have lost all your 
friends.' There was a lot more in the same strain, and much of it, 
though basically true, was considerably exaggerated. The real 
reason why I don't get on in the world is that I have never really 
sufficiently wanted to — and I have many friends. But it is cer- 
tainly wiser to make sure that your hearer has a sense of humour 
before indulging your own. There is nothing a man dislikes so 
much as a possibly comic allusion which he does not understand 
— and consequently fears. 




96 



CHAPTER 9 

Several years before the gift of tongues descended upon the 
silent screen and robbed it of its one golden virtue, a curious little 
chirruping was heard from the pictures and was hailed by super 
optimists as the beginning of talking films. In a sense it was. But 
it was a very long way from real sound films as we knew them 
afterwards, for Sir Ambrose Fleming had not yet invented his 
thermionic valve without which no amplification and therefore 
no satisfactory volume of sound was possible. 

The chirruping emanated from an old-style gramophone with 
a horn, placed upon the stage beside the picture and, by one or 
other ingenious contrivance, keeping some kind of synchronism 
with the picture on the screen. I want to describe one way by 
which this synchronism was attempted, for all of them had the 
basic idea in common. 

Will Barker's method, the 'Cinephone,' was one of the simplest 
and I believe he did very well out of it. Having selected a suitable 
gramophone record he played it through several times to the 
actor or actors who were to take part in the picture. When they 
were letter-perfect, could sing the song in strict accord with the 
record and fit appropriate action to the words, he placed the 
gramophone in the corner of the scene where it would be photo- 
graphed as part of the picture. Then he mounted a kind of clock- 
face upon the instrument with a hand geared to the spindle so 
that it would turn slowly as the record played. The scene was 
photographed and the index-hand with it. 

When the picture was exhibited, a similar gramophone with a 
similar clock-face was placed on the stage beside the screen. The 
record was started at the same moment as the picture and all the 
operator in the box had to do was to keep the dial in the picture 
on the screen exactly in step with the dial on the stage. If he suc- 
ceeded exactly the film would be in synchronism with the sound, 
but it wasn't easy. The trouble was that the whole of the 'kitchen 



97 



arrangements ,' so to speak, was right before the eyes of the 
audience. If the synchronism went wrong they could see why. 
They probably got more fun watching the race between the two 
little clocks than they did out of the picture, but at least they were 
amused either way. 

I originated a method which I thought was better. 1 It was a 
private electrical connection between the machine and the man 
in the box. A simple commutator, laid on the gramophone when 
the record was in place, sent electrical signals through a wire to a 
synchroniser in the operating box. The synchroniser had a little 
lamp behind a slot, which was normally covered by a movable 
hand just wide enough to hide the light. That hand had two little 
windows of gelatine attached to it, green on one side and red on 
the other. The signals from the distant gramophone tended to pull 
the hand to one side and thus show a green light. A similar 
commutator on the projector tended to pull the indicator hand in 
the other direction. As long as the picture was in exact synchro- 
nism with the gramophone the needle covered the slot and no 
light showed but the moment the two machines got out of step, 
even by an eighth of a second, a red or a green flash warned the 
operator and he varied his speed at once to bring them into step 
again. 

All methods of this kind, however, were at the mercy of the 
man in charge of the gramophone, for if he did not start the needle 
on the record at the right point all hope of synchronism was lost. 
In some cinemas a programme boy was given the job — and a lot 
of things went wrong! 

These of course were not 'talking pictures' in the proper 
meaning of the words. They were an interesting little side-line — 
perhaps an ingenious attempt to peep into the future and see 
whether picture and sound were likely ever to get married. It was 
a little flirtation which might or might not lead on to more 
serious things. 

We called our instrument the 'Vivaphone' because we had to 
call it something. It was installed in a considerable number of 
small halls — the gramophone's gentle bleating was too faint for 
anything larger — and we supplied them with a steady stream of 
films, two a week for several years. You wouldn't have liked them 
even if they had been good. For the 'talkies,' properly so called 
(if anything can be 'properly' called by such an outrageous name), 

1 Patent application No. 10417. April 28th, 1910. 



98 



must be simultaneously photographed — generally on two films, 
the 'track' and the 'mute,' and the marriage is consummated 
when they are combined in the prints which go to the cinemas. 
The metaphor must now be dropped or questions of morality 
might arise when half a dozen tracks are united with one mute, 
which is quite usual practice. 

The 'Vivaphone' was sold or leased in complete sets consisting 
of synchroniser, gramophone attachment, projector handle, coil 
of wire and a four- volt battery. Anyone could rig the arrangement 
up, or call upon us to show him how. One of our men once took 
a set to a customer by train; it was in a bag by itself and he put it 
on the luggage rack. Suddenly it caught fire spontaneously, sent 
out dense clouds of evil-smelling smoke and had to be pitched out 
of the window — luckily in open country. The railway company 
recovered it and, naturally, asked us what it meant. I went to see 
them — and it — but couldn't suggest any explanation. We were all 
nonplussed. Then I went back and did some furious thinking. 
The bag had contained only the four-volt battery, some wire and 
a tin box with the film in it — the customer already had the other 
parts. At last I tried putting a film-box on the top of the battery, 
the metal touching both the terminals. Almost at once the mystery 
was explained: the metal short-circuited the current and became 
red hot. 

Nobody had thought of this possibility beforehand, but evi- 
dently what had happened was that in placing the bag on the 
rack, or in the jolting of the train, the tin box had got into 
position on the top of the battery, and then further jolting had 
caused it to make contact and fire the celluloid. 

Although the 'Vivaphone' had only a short life of three or four 
years, it had its moments of glory. One of these was when that 
important politician, Bonar Law, made a gramophone record 
specially for us, but with an eye, of course, to the value of propa- 
ganda. He had to make a journey to The Gramophone Company 
and deliver his speech into a long funnel — there was no electrical 
recording then — and then come out to our studio and re-deliver it 
word by word in step with his own record on the gramophone 
attached to our camera. This is now called 'post-synchronisation' 
and it isn't at all an easy thing to do. Truth to tell he was not very 
good at it. But it was good enough to pass with people who 
were not too critical and I have little doubt that it served its 
purpose. 



99 



F. E. Smith, who afterwards became Lord Birkenhead, made a 
much better job of the same sort of thing. His speech was much 
better to begin with, and he seemed as if he were quite at home 
with the big funnel; and then, when he had to come to the studio 
to repeat the whole performance before the camera, while the 
gramophone threw his speech back at him, and he was expected 
to put in all the lip movements and expressions in exact time to 
every word, he never turned a hair. His performance was really 
excellent and I hope it did some good. 

Several other Cabinet Ministers came in turn to a room in St. 
James 5 Square, which I fitted up as a studio, and appeared before 
my film camera and afterwards arrangements were made by 
which we were to have photographed, although not in synchro- 
nism, an actual Cabinet meeting in full session. We rigged up our 
apparatus in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street with a large 
number of Westminster arc-lamps, for which the power was 
supplied to us from somewhere in the basement, and when all was 
ready we had nothing to do but stand about and wait for Lloyd 
George and his ministers to troop in and begin their show. Instead, 
there came a short message that the whole idea was off, and we 
packed up and went home again. 

We were not told the reason and were left to guess whether it 
was a sudden attack of stage fright or what it was. It was a sad 
disappointment to us for a film like that would have been some- 
thing of a triumph at that time. However, our grief was assuaged 
by the authorities setting aside for us a room in St. James' Square 
where many of the members of the Cabinet came and sat for 
me to be filmed. The 'Vivaphone' had nothing to do with this. 
An unaccustomed silence was settled upon all these important 
personages, and I wondered if they, so different in appearance, 
had anything else in common besides their rank as ministers of the 
crown. I found it, to my delight. They all had a keen sense of 
humour, that rarest and best of the human senses, binding them 
together and linking them to the country. 

That is my memory, after thirty-four years, of a very curious 
incident, but the incident is really much more curious than that. 
I had completely forgotten that at the time I had been asked to 
set out a full description of it for the Kinematograph Tear Book, but 
as it was published under my portrait and over my facsimile 
signature I am bound to admit its authenticity. 

Here it is: — 



ioo 



THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CABINET FILM 

By Cecil M. Hepworth 

You ask me to write you a brief article for the new edition of 
the Kinemato graph Tear Book, giving the real inner history of the 
Cabinet Film about which there was so much talk last summer. 
Without betraying any confidence, I think I may say that the 
first thing that happened was an application from a lady, well 
known in social circles, for aid from the kinematograph industry 
for a charity in which she was very much interested. Her suggestion 
filtered through to a gentleman, who, though not connected with 
the trade, has been interested in several kinematograph ventures 
on the sporting side. This gentleman took the idea to Mr. W. G. 
Barker as a typical representative of the industry in this country, 
with a view to learning what the exhibitors of kinematograph 
pictures would be likely to do. He, with characteristic vehemence, 
said they could do nothing, and gave as his reasons that exhibitors 
were at the moment in a state of being very hard hit by the war 
and the conditions contingent upon it, such as the Amusement 
Tax and the Daylight Saving Bill, and so on. 

The gentleman of sporting proclivities was by no means 
inclined to take No for an answer, and Mr. Barker at length 
suggested that he had better apply to Mr. A. E. Newbould, the 
Chairman of the Exhibitors' Association, who was the best man 
in England to speak authoritatively for the exhibitors. Mr. 
Newbould's answer was very much the same as Mr. Barker's, but 
with this proviso, that if any scheme could be evolved which 
would enable the exhibitors to get some sort of boom which might 
help in a small measure to counteract the depressing influences 
already mentioned, they would certainly be willing to do every- 
thing in their power to help the charity in question. It was not a 
case of giving them a quid pro quo for their assistance, for the 
kinematograph exhibitors have shown, over and over again, 
their willingness and anxiety to help every worthy cause to which 
they could be of any possible assistance. But here they were faced 
with a situation which simply did not permit them to think of 
helping any charity on such a gigantic scale as was suggested in 
this instance. Give them some means by which they could make 
a little money, and that money could certainly be at the disposal 
of the charity. Thus Mr. Newbould. 

The British sportsman, nothing daunted, asked Mr. Newbould, 
with sparkling eyes, what he would suggest. 



IOI 



That gentleman thought awhile and then said, 'Well, get us 
permission to take a photo of the Cabinet assembling in the historic 
Cabinet Room, and we will probably get you all you want.' 

Thus he spake, thinking that the dauntless one would be 
crushed for ever by such a problem. Not so, however. Within a 
week or two, the telephone rang, and the report came through: 
'It's all fixed up. You can photo the Cabinet whenever you like.' 

Mr. Newbould now had to go ahead. He had asked for the 
moon and got it. He had no excuse for drawing back. Not that he 
wanted to do so, for his own enthusiasm was aroused, and when 
Mr. Newbould is enthusiastic things get done. Much of his 
keenness percolated through to the exhibitors, and arrangements 
were soon on foot for making this charity not only the biggest 
thing in charities which the kinematograph trade had ever 
touched, but incidentally, one of the biggest booms for the trade 
itself. A gala performance was to be held in a big representative 
kinematograph theatre in London, and there is very little doubt 
but that the King himself would have been present, and thereby 
set a seal upon the British kinematograph industry, the influence 
of which would have been permanent and far-reaching. At this 
gala performance the opportunity would have been taken of 
proving to immense numbers of British people who still need a 
proof that English films are being made today which are equal to 
anything the rest of the world can show. Only British-made 
pictures would have appeared upon that programme and in the 
very nature of things they would thereby have invited com- 
parison with the very best of the rest of the world's productions. 

Meanwhile, Mr. W. G. Barker was calling a meeting of British 
manufacturers and producers, to discuss the best means of carry- 
ing out the work involved, and a committee of three, consisting of 
Messrs. W. G. Barker, G. L. Tucker and myself, was appointed to 
make all the necessary arrangements, and take the Cabinet Film. 
It was at this first meeting of this committee that I let drop a 
bomb, which kept the said committee quiet for a considerable 
number of minutes. All the time these negotiations had been 
going forward, I had been nursing a guilty secret which I could 
no longer keep to myself. It was this. For many months I had 
been quietly taking a series of what we technically call 'close-ups' 
of these very Cabinet ministers, whom it was now proposed to 
photograph en masse. I had, in fact, already got this Cabinet 
picture in detail, and in far better detail at that, than could 



102 



possibly have been obtained in the conditions that would be 
involved in the Cabinet Room itself. 

Nearly all of these ministers, as well as a number of other 
distinguished people, had sat specially for me in a studio I had 
fitted up in one of the Government offices, and naturally, working 
in conditions of my own choosing, I had obtained good results. 
This series of 'Kinematograph Interviews' was an old idea of 
mine, started as far back as five years ago, when such people as 
the Right Hon. F. E. Smith and the Right Hon. A. Bonar Law 
came down to the studios at Walton to be 'kine-interviewed' on 
the subject of Tariff Reform. I had similar interviews about this 
time last year, but I found that the numerous engagements of 
these important people made it too difficult to get them out into 
the country for photographing, and so I postponed further 
pictures until last winter, when a Government office was placed 
at my disposal, and specially fitted up as a studio. 

There is little more to be said on this point. The committee 
were in a quandary. My pictures were ready, and if I put them 
out, the success of their Cabinet film was in jeopardy. On the 
other hand, they did not feel prepared to ask me to abandon the 
fruits of many months of work, and let them get their film out 
first, and so queer mine. The sporting gentleman came forward 
with a sporting offer of a £1,000 if I would stand aside, and let 
the charity film come out first, which offer I naturally refused 
with as much politeness as I could muster. The better suggestion 
was that I should merge my film in with the other, and make one 
thoroughly good and complete picture for the benefit of the 
charity, and incidentally for the trade as a whole. This appeared 
to me to be the only course, and I gladly adopted it, and I was 
asked to undertake the whole of the arrangements, and take the 
Cabinet film myself, so that, as far as possible, there might be one 
supremely good film for the good of the cause, instead of two 
incomplete ones. 

Then came that unfortunate and ill-advised premature publi- 
city. Somebody got hold of the knowledge that the members of the 
Cabinet were to be filmed. Somebody else, with a sense of humour 
more strongly developed than discretion, saw only the funny side 
of it, and how easily it could be ridiculed. That sense of humour 
ran riot through the newspapers, and the British public laughed. 
Cabinet Ministers do not like laughter. Perhaps it takes a strong 
man to be ridiculed. However that might be, the project was 



103 



suddenly abandoned and a great opportunity lost — killed by 
ridicule. 

It is often urged against Englishmen that their great failing is 
lack of imagination, and my experience over this abandoned 
Cabinet film leads me regretfully to the fear that there is some- 
thing in this. I recall how the newspapers, which admittedly 
reflect public sentiment, only a few short years ago were laughing 
at the possibility of flying machines ; and then a little later were 
weeping tears of sorrow over the risks which men ran in going up 
in these gimcrack affairs for the amusement of spectators and the 
getting in of gate-money. And now these same flying machines 
are winning the war! There was the same outcry against motor- 
cars, well within my own memory, and I can hear the echo of the 
indignation which was expressed at the mere thought of a Cabinet 
Minister imperilling his dignity by riding in one of these 'stink 
machines' as they then called them. I believe there was the same 
outcry against railway trains when they were first invented, and I 
can imagine the horror with which the equivalent of a Cabinet 
Minister in Caxton's day would have regarded the idea of his 
well-rounded speeches and noble thoughts being recorded upon 
artificial papyrus in a greasy ink. 

How the people of a few years hence will laugh at a dignity 
which was afraid of being sullied by contact with the kinemato- 
graph, the greatest and most powerful vehicle for the conveyance 
of thought which the world has ever produced! 

The 'Vivaphone' petered out in the end as it was bound to do, 
for the novelty wore off, and the frequent failures because the boy 
was careless about putting the gramophone needle in the proper 
place on the record brought all these devices into ill-repute after 
the lack of synchronism ceased to be amusing. 

But before I leave the subject I must record one incident which 
was rather significant. At the first little picture-hall in Walton 
which I described some time back, an early ' Vivaphone ' 
picture was introduced. It was received with such intense enthu- 
siasm that an encore was vociferously demanded and could 
not be refused, although it meant delay while the film was 
rewound and the gramophone reset. Then the people refused 
to allow the programme to be resumed until they had had a 
second encore and even a third. So much for this little foretaste 
of 'talking pictures.' 



104 







"to Q 
ft* =3 






-si 







~<3 

■X3 






Although I invented the 'Vivaphone' I never really liked it. I 
had said all along that it was easy to do and not worth doing, for 
at the best it could only be a sort of disreputable ghost of what 
'talking pictures' would certainly become in due course. But I was 
overruled by the business interests, in the shape of Manager 
Parfrey, who had his finger on the pulse of things more closely than 
I had, and I am bound to admit that from that point of view he 
was undoubtedly right. For out of it we made a lot of money 
which was available for worthier purposes. 

Incidentally, the principle of the 'Vivaphone,' after the thing 
itself was dead, was used very greatly to improve the technical 
quality of an important device in the making of one type of picture 
which we came upon later. This I will deal with in its proper 
place, for I am still trying to be true to my promise of chronolo- 
gical sequence. 

And in that order, I must apologise for having been a little 
premature in according to the news-reel people all responsibility 
for every future picture of news interest. For almost immediately 
we came to one which was of so much national importance that 
we were bound to serve it with all the skill and devotion at our 
command. If this was to be our swan-song so far as news was 
concerned it was a really worthy effort. It is safe to say that for 
beauty of photography and vital interest it remained unbeaten 
for many years. It was The Funeral of King Edward VII on May 20th, 
1 9 10. I took my camera, with Stanley Faithfull to help me, to 
Windsor Station to photograph the arrival of the funeral train with 
all that marvellous assembly of English and foreign mourners — 
all the very numerous crowned heads of Europe. It was a very 
remarkable sight and the film, taken in perfect weather, does full 
justice to it. I am glad indeed that I have a copy of it in my 
possession still. There were very many more crowned heads in 
Europe then than there are today or, I suppose, ever will be again. 
And most of the people there then must be dead by now. The 
Prince of Wales, a young slip of a lad, walks just behind the 
German Emperor, and the kings of nearly all the countries on our 
side of the world are there in full state. Geoffrey Faithfull had 
another camera in London where the procession passed near 
Marlborough House and secured an equally valuable picture. 
Between us, and with the help of unusually fine weather, we set a 
standard for the news-reel people which must have taken them a 
long time to surpass. 



105 




CHAPTER 10 

On the day of the Walton Regatta of 1 910 I went in a punt with 
some friends and we happened to pull up a little way from 
another punt where the occupants surprisingly burst into song. 
They were 'buskers' recently returned from some seaside town at 
which they had been performing in a local hall, or perhaps on the 
beach. Anyhow, their work was obviously very good and it was 
suggested that I might find them exactly suitable for further 
productions for the 'Vivaphone,' then in the heyday of its popu- 
larity. I took the hint and got them to come round and see me. 
Their names were Hay Plumb, a jolly young fellow beginning to 
show incipient rotundity, which is supposed to be but isn't always, 
a sign of good living, Jack Hulcup and his wife, Claire, afterwards 
Claire Pridelle, who were both much too slight to imply any such 
suspicion. 

They proved to be a good acquisition both for acting and 
production of 'Vivaphone' subjects and for other things as well. 
For though they did not set our near-by Thames on fire, their work 
was sound and good as far as it went and they were decent and 
friendly people, several cuts above some of those we had been 
scratching from the boards of the smaller theatres. Hay Plumb in 
particular was a very useful man and he soon came to take 
important parts before the camera and afterwards beside it. 

In the autumn of that year practically our whole company 
migrated to Lulworth Cove, armed with a number of suitable 
scripts and a firm determination to make as many good small films 



106 



as it possibly could, and to enjoy itself into the bargain. I could not 
spare the time to be with them for long but I went down there 
very frequently and helped where I could and hindered where I 
must. Once when with my camera I was up to my knees in sea- 
water, and Fitz was nearly up to his waist in it, directing several 
girls who were in it too, he began to get a little ratty trying to hear 
my suggestions over the noise the sea was making. I called out to 
him to get one of the girls a little nearer. 'Nearer to what?' he said 
crossly. 'Nearer, my God, to theeV I shouted back, and they all 
recovered their tempers in the gust of laughter that followed. 

In the following year, 'Plummie' was on contract — on two 
pounds ten a week, and very happy on it he has since assured me; 
and he and Gladys Sylvani, who joined us about that time, did a 
lot of very good work. Gladys Sylvani was a very beautiful young 
woman of striking colouring and she became our leading lady for 
several years. Her work was so good and her appearance so 
effective that if our films had been of the importance and calibre 
to which they afterwards attained she would have left a very 
significant mark upon them and made an even greater impression 
upon the industry. 

The tangible results of the excursion to Lul worth that year were 
good enough to warrant a similar trip in the autumn of the 
following year, and among others there was an attractive story of 
Grace Darling to be attempted. Now the script in this case called 
for a cottage on the beach so that the heroine could go straight 
from her front door, so to speak, into her boat without wasting 
any time. But at Lulworth Cove there was no cottage built upon 
the beach. We did not want to build a cottage so we selected a 
suitably attractive one in the village and proceeded to carry the 
beach up to it. There was no pavement in front of it of course, 
only a gently sloping green bank which made a very good support 
for the beach stones. When we hauled up a boat on it, ready for 
Grace to push off into the putative sea, you would never have 
supposed that there was anything artificial about it. 

By 19 12 we were coming in sight of a more important period of 
our work in which we were destined to recover all the ground we 
had lost in the thin years both before and after the time of the fire. 
I cannot account for that thin time except by supposing that I 
was not sufficiently alive to the many changes which were occur- 
ring in the industry; not aware enough of the great possibilities 
which lay in the future. It is perhaps charitable to assume that I 



107 



was lured by the apparent security of our trade with America and 
other countries, into the feeling that change and progress need 
not be too seriously contemplated. 

Perhaps the first small step in the right direction was asking 
Blanche Macintosh to write a script for us instead of relying upon 
our own puny efforts. She, too, began very humbly, for her first 
scenario only earned her a guinea. It was called In Wolfs Clothing 
and I am afraid that is all I know about it. 

A very important event in the story of English films was the 
appointment of a film censor. I mentioned near the beginning of 
this book that there occasionally appeared unpleasant little films 
which were ostensibly for 'smoking-room' use, and that, though 
some of us took a little fright that they might spread and become 
a danger to the trade, they did not then grow beyond being 'no 
bigger than a man's hand.' But in these later years, when there 
were fifty 'producers' for every one there was before; when there 
were fifty times as many markets with the temptation to make a 
little quick money and hang the consequences, the danger was 
certainly growing. Although there was as yet no overt evidence of 
it, we felt it might flare up at any moment. 

We remembered hearing what happened to the stereoscope in 
the days when our fathers were young. That very attractive 
instrument, showing beautiful scenery in natural deep relief, was 
to be found in nearly every ladies' drawing-room, until in an evil 
day some unprincipled persons began selling indecent photo- 
graphs for use in it. That was its knell. It speedily acquired such 
ill-repute that it was totally banished and never again came back 
into favour. 

And some of us took fright. We visualised the possibility of a 
like fate overtaking our cinematograph. It was Will Barker who 
took the first step. He called Bromhead and me and one or two 
others into consultation and we put our heads together and agreed 
that the best safeguard would be to set up a censorship and 
somehow compel all film-makers to submit all their films to its 
judgment. It was rather a large undertaking but it was a big 
danger with which the whole industry of film-making was 
threatened. I need not go into details. There was in existence the 
Kinematograph Manufacturers Association to which we all 
belonged, and it was arranged that that body should inaugurate 
the scheme. Its very capable secretary, J. Brooke-Wilkinson, 
entered heartily into the arrangement and as secretary of the 



108 



British Board of Film Censors carried on the affair so very excel- 
lently that not only did the whole body of film-makers (after a 
little struggling) come into it and support it heartily, but it 
became the example to other censorships everywhere, in spite of 
the fact that it belongs to, and is supported by, the very people 
who have to obey its edicts. 

If ever the true story of the British film industry comes to be 
written it will be found that there is one name which streaks along 
it like a bright ray of light, from near the beginning, and on 
through its most important years. It is not to be found on any 
advertisements, scarcely appears in any trade paper, was never 
seen on any programme or list of important people. Yet there is 
no name better known through all the industry than that of 
Brooke-Wilkinson . 

I met him first in the offices of the Photographic Dealer, run by my 
friend, Arthur Brookes, for whom I occasionally wrote some semi- 
technical articles. Mr. Wilkinson as we called him then was a 
dapper little man, without obvious personality or any hint of the 
skill and extraordinary tact which he displayed in after years. He 
was on the advertising staff of the Dealer and was understood to 
possess considerable knowledge of photographic and chemical 
apparatus, and he had a quietly genial and pleasant manner. 

When the Kinematograph Manufacturers Association was 
formed I was, I think, its first chairman. Anyhow, when its work 
began to accumulate and we came in need of a secretary, I 
remembered the dapper little man in the office of the Photographic 
Dealer and suggested he should be approached. He duly accepted 
the job and held it to the end of his life. 

Thus it came about that when three or four of us, in a little 
informal committee with W. G. Barker, began to discuss the 
matter of a trade censorship to keep undesirable elements out of 
the films, it naturally fell to the K.M.A. to father the scheme and 
to Brooke- Wilkinson to be its secretary. And then he began to 
unfold. He pointed out that we must have a prominent and well- 
known man to be its head and at a salary which made us gasp. 
But we felt he was right and T. P. O'Connor was approached and 
he accepted the post of first film censor. 

But for all practical purposes Brooke- Wilkinson was himself the 
censor. It was he who suggested 'Tay Pay' and he who approached 
him and fixed it all up. He did the same in the case of each 
succeeding official censor and it was he who selected and appointed 



109 



the staff of the board of examiners. It was he who received and 
dealt in the first place with any complaints — and at first there 
were many — discussed them between the complaining film digni- 
taries and the examiners concerned, and in the last resource put 
the case before the official censor. 

I remember when, very many years later, he told me 
in confidence that he had found a beautiful old house which 
he believed he could secure; one which would be a worthy 
home for the British Board and be a credit to it not only 
in the eyes of the film trade in this country but also of all 
the visitors from other lands who came over here, as they 
occasionally did, to study our censorship methods. He took 
me to see it. It was a kind of furniture repository at the time but 
even so I could see that it was a wonderful old building, a beautiful 
house built by Christopher Wren and the Adams. I shared his 
enthusiasm though I wondered a little where the money was to 
come from. 

However, he bought it himself at a very moderate price and the 
old furniture was cleared away. Then people began to hear about 
it and almost immediately he was offered a price which would 
have showed him a tremendous profit on his outlay. He refused. 
He furnished the whole place in keeping with its style and anti- 
quity, got his staff installed — and then turned it over to the Board 
at exactly the price he had paid for it. 

I think that was the proudest moment in his life, and I know 
that his very heart was in that building; the crowning monument 
of his whole career. It was called Carlisle House at the end of 
Carlisle Street, Soho Square. Incidentally, it was the house 
selected by Charles Dickens as the home of Dr. Manette in The 
Tale of Two Cities. 

One night, in the middle of the war, a bomb dropped upon it 
and smashed it to a mere heap of rubble: not one brick was left 
standing upon another in its proper place. I heard about the 
calamity early next morning and hurried round in the hope of 
intercepting poor old Brookie and breaking the news to him 
before he came upon it unawares. I thought it would kill him for 
he was an old man by then. But I was too late to help him. I 
found him seated on a kitchen chair at the corner of Carlisle 
Street, calm and gentle, waiting to give directions to the staff as 
they arrived to 'work'! 

I sometimes wonder whether it would be any exaggeration to 



no 



say that Brooke-Wilkinson was, by and large and from beginning 
to end, the best-known man in the British film industry. He had 
the most difficult job of all and he held it down with such gentle 
forceful dignity that he was loved by all and was the friend of 
every man who might so easily have been his enemy. 

That sincere appreciation of a very honourable man had to 
come in in its proper place at the point where the Board of 
Censors was appointed, but as it also concerns the greater part of 
a man's life it has carried us far beyond that proper place and 
indeed beyond the scope of the whole of this book. I must, there- 
fore, call back your attention to the point where it left the main 
stream. So we are back again in the day of the very short picture. 

But if my company had not yet begun to make the long and 
important films which were to make future years memorable, it 
was certainly industrious in the making of short ones. 19 12 was 
extraordinarily prolific, for, apart from the two 'Vivaphone' 
subjects every week without fail, there were also three or more 
'shorts' of anything from five hundred to a thousand feet long, 
mostly with Gladys Sylvani and Alec Worcester or Flora Morris, 
Harry Royston, Marie de Solla, Harry Gilbey, to quote a few of 
the stock-company names which come to mind. 

The year was also memorable for some delightful productions 
in quite a different idiom by Elwin Neame, for instance The Lady 
of Shalott with Ivy Close who was for some time a member of the 
stock-company, and The Sleeping Beauty by the same two people. 

A less artistic but commercially more important venture was 
Oliver Twist. I think I have mentioned that my father was a 
popular lecturer when I was a youngster and that one of my 
greatest joys was to go with him and work his 'Dissolving Views' 
for him. His most successful lecture was The Footprints of Charles 
Dickens in which I gloried and heard over and over again. As a 
result I read every book that Dickens wrote and got myself 
thoroughly saturated with him. So when Thomas Bentley presen- 
ted himself to me as a 'great Dickens character impersonator and 
scholar,' my heart naturally warmed to him and I was readily 
receptive when he offered to make a Dickens film for me. In the 
end he made several, but I think Oliver Twist was the first and its 
length was nearly four thousand feet. It may not have been 
outstandingly good but it was very successful and it marked the 
beginning not only of a Dickens series but also of a long range of 



in 



increasingly important pictures from other popular novels and plays. 

Gladys Sylvani was our very popular leading lady all through 
191 1 and for the two or three following years. She frequently 
appeared with Alec Worcester or with Hay Plumb in films of what 
was then the considerable length of over a thousand feet, but there 
is little use in quoting titles which must of necessity be quite 
meaningless now that the films themselves are forgotten. 

There was a curiously interesting adaptation of the cinemato- 
graph to the legitimate theatre which was introduced about this 
time by a man named Messter, who called it 'Stereoplastics.' It 
was an ingenious combination of the old 'Pepper's Ghost' idea 
with films instead of living actors. In the 'Pepper's Ghost' illusion, 
as everybody knows, a very large sheet of glass was stretched 
across the stage at an angle so that it would reflect a white-robed 
actress standing in the wings. She would appear to the audience 
as if she were standing in the middle of the stage. The crux of the 
illusion was that the 'ghost' would be invisible until a bright light 
was shone upon the figure in the wings and would gradually fade 
away again when the light was slowly extinguished. 

In the 'Stereoplastic' illusion the white figure in the wings was 
replaced by a sheet upon which a picture could be thrown from a 
projector out of sight on the opposite side of the stage. Both 
lantern and screen were invisible to the audience, until the 
specially devised film was thrown upon the screen, when the 
figure or figures appeared in the centre of the stage among the 
real people and the coloured scenery and furniture. There was no 
trace of the screen and the figures certainly looked very round and 
solid; or they could be made more transparent and ghost-like by 
reducing the brilliance of the light in the projector. 

We had quite a lot of fun in the making of these special films for 
which we had to follow very carefully the instructions which were 
given to us. The actors had to be clothed entirely in white and 
have their faces and hands whitened too, and they had to be 
photographed against a very dark background of black velvet. 
The films were so processed that the figure was very white and 
clear and the surroundings so black and dense that no trace of 
light could get through and make any part of the screen even 
faintly visible as 2l screen. 

The show was put on at the Scala Theatre in London where it 
was shown for several weeks. I do not remember that it attracted 
any marked attention. It suffered, I suspect, from the usual fate 



112 



which almost always dogs the steps of any ghost-illusion. Very few 
people are interested in an illusion of that kind just as an illusion. 
They may think it is clever but do not bother to wonder how it is 
done; they don't even care. Unless it tells some story, or belongs 
to some story which cannot well be told without it, it very soon 
ceases to intrigue them. 

That is, indeed, at the basis of all entertainment. The conjurer 
is no good without his patter, and his patter must be interesting in 
itself. The cleverness of a ventriloquist goes for nothing unless the 
story his doll tells is both funny and clever. Radio and television 
are so amazingly wonderful in themselves that if you think of that 
your very hair stands up on end: but you don't. All you think 
about is their message, the story they have to tell. So it is with the 
films. Hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on making them 
marvellously wonderful go for nothing at all if you are bored with 
the story. And how bored you sometimes are! 

One of the most portentous events in my film-life was the 
coming to England of Larry Trimble, with John Bunny and 
Florence Turner, to produce The Pickwick Papers with John Bunny 
in the name part. He came to me to see whether he could use my 
studio and I was honoured and very glad to agree that he should. 
They were three of the most delightful people, all experienced in 
modern American practice and quite willing to impart their 
knowledge. They were polite enough to imply that they found 
reciprocity on my part which made us quits. 

Larry and I became excellent friends and had long discussions 
on the details and ethics of film production. We found that our 
views coincided to a very remarkable extent considering we came 
from and belonged to opposite hemispheres. It was he who 
persuaded me to try my hand at the actual 'direction' of a film, as 
they call it in America. Alma Taylor had been appearing in 
several short films made by Fitzhamon and when I supervised 
them and did much of their camera work I had been attracted by 
her charm and growing skill. Blanche Macintosh had by then 
written several short scripts for us and one of these entitled Blind 
Fate seemed to me like an excellent medium both for Alma's 
acting and for my first efforts at 'direction.' 

The result was very successful and earned for both of us warm 
commendation. I think the nicest compliment I have ever had 
was when the shy little girl said to me afterwards: 'My! You are 
hot, aren't you?' 



ii3 



CHAPTER ii 

That short film settled my career from then on. I devoted myself 
entirely to production and stuck to it ever after until the silent 
pictures were drowned in a sea of sound and the Hepworth 
Company went down with them. Not that one was the cause of 
the other: the two things just happened together. But we must not 
hint at the end yet, for this is only the beginning — the turning 
point at which the company really began to find itself — began to 
think about making important and worth-while pictures. 

John Bunny, Florence Turner and Larry Trimble belonged to 
the Vitagraph Company of America — one of the oldest, if not the 
oldest, film company in the world. We had a tremendous lot of 
questions to ask one another as may be imagined. I asked John 
Bunny, among a great many other things, what they did about 
make-up. He said, 'Oh. Just fight it, fight and keep on fighting.' 
I gathered from this that he and I were very much of a mind 
about that as we turned out to be on many subjects. My practice 
was then and afterwards to discourage and indeed refuse all stage 
make-up of any kind except in heavy character parts. Special 
film make-up had not been invented then and when it began to 
appear I wouldn't have it used either. This was due to a curious 
belief I held very strongly then, though whether I should be able 
to do so now in the case of a 'dark' studio, with its multitude of 
arc-lights, I do not know. 

I held that facial expression, more important in the silent days 
than it became when sound was added to the pictures, was not a 
matter of the eyes at all, and in fact the actual eye, so far from 
being under the control of the actor, is entirely beyond his power 
of changing in any respect. I know it is a common belief that the 
eye can be made to show all sorts of different expressions but I 
hold that that is not so. Except in the matter of tears the actual 
eye-ball takes no part in delineating any of the emotions. It just 
doesn't change its shade or colour or anything. It is in the tiny 



114 



interstices in the skin around the eyes that all changes of expression 
are registered. If this is so, it would seem to be bad practice to fill 
up those tiny interstices and almost invisible wrinkles with grease- 
paint. It is robbing the artists of their best means of telling the 
story. 

The ban did not, of course, forbid the accenting of such things 
as eyebrows or even, a little, the lips. But apart from such minor 
repairs as nature had forgotten, the rule was: leave yourself as 
God made you; that's good enough for me. 

About those tears. I occasionally read of certain mechanical or 
even chemical means of inducing them artificially — which is 
perhaps why the effect on the screen sometimes looks rather false. 
In all the years I worked with Alma Taylor I always found that 
whenever she had to express an emotion which, in real life, might 
result in tears she always felt it strongly and the tears came without 
any urging. It may not be generally so on the stage, of course, for 
there an actress is night after night re-enacting by memory the 
emotions she felt deeply in some far-away rehearsal. But in film- 
making we strive to record that actual rehearsal when the feeling 
is very real and the tears come naturally. 

This was rather too poignantly illustrated once when I was 
rehearsing Alec Worcester for the film called, I think, At the Foot 
of the Scaffold. Worcester was a very good actor though he was 
rather a strange fellow in some ways. In one of the scenes in this 
film, in which he was impersonating a man who had evidently got 
himself into very serious trouble and become accused, falsely we 
must suppose, of murder, he had to work himself up, or be worked 
up, into a highly nervous condition at the thought of his impending 
fate. He did get worked up so very thoroughly that just at the 
moment we were ready to take the scene he suddenly went off into 
a violent fit of hysterics. Just for an instant I thought he was still 
acting, and then I went for him, hammer and tongs. I called him 
all the names I could think of, and that was plenty, and finished 
up with cold-water treatment. When he came round he was no 
further use that day, and I felt very queasy about the way he 
might behave on the morrow. He was, however, considerably 
chastened, and although I do not think he put up as good a show 
as he would have done the first day had he been able to go on, he 
did not do at all badly. 

Alec Worcester was the husband of Violet Hopson, a good 
actress and a very nice woman, and they had two lovely children. 



"5 



Of the few people from the actual theatrical world who floated 
into our company one of the very best was 'Billy' Saunders. I 
think his main experience at the theatre was in the 'front of the 
house* — in the box-office or some similar capacity — not on the 
stage. When he came to us he acted occasionally, as did everyone 
else at some time or another, but his greatest ability was more in 
the nature of what would today be called Art Director. For he 
was very clever in arranging and setting scenery, making sure of 
its suitability in every way and decorating and furnishing it 
appropriately. He was very fond of little 'accents' — a bunch of 
flowers or similar effective touch right down in the foreground at 
the corner of the picture. I used to laugh at him and call them 
'Billyisms,' but I seldom removed them. 

Lulworth Cove was visited again in 19 12 and several films were 
made. We all liked that place for it was good for filming and very 
enjoyable between whiles. Like many of our contemporaries, we 
had a stock comic individual — in our case he was called 'Hawk- 
eye' and played by Plumb. Hawkeye Swims the Channel was one of 
his efforts, and he remembers that on arrival he found he had no 
passport and was turned back by a gendarme. One of our fellows 
was very nearly drowned at the Durdle Door and was dragged 
ashore by Alma and first-aided by the rest of the company. In an 
exciting cliff-chase picture Fitz had a bad giddiness attack and 
couldn't get down, until rescued by the coastguards. Plumb stood 
beneath him as a support. He says he could scarcely avoid this 
kind office as Fitz began it by standing on his fingers. 

One of the first of my important pictures was when I was 
commissioned by the Gaumont Company to make a film of Sir 
Johnston Forbes-Robertson's production of Hamlet. This was a 
considerable undertaking for those days. I was given a price to 
work to — I have forgotten how much it was but I believe I kept 
within it, which was in itself rather unusual. Hamlet as a play is 
almost all interiors and these were staged without much difficulty 
with Hay Plumb as producer, in our studio at Walton, to which 
the great actor and Lady Forbes-Robertson and all the other 
actors in the company made such daily excursions as were neces- 
sary. But I wanted something more than that and I decided before- 
hand to build the Castle of Elsinore on the sea coast. I went with 
a few helpers down to Lulworth Cove and there, among the 
rugged little hills and rocks overlooking the sea, we found a spot 
on which it was sufficiendy flat to build the castle. 



116 



Next we engaged a small gang of those men who build in canvas 
and plaster such very convincing structures for big exhibitions as 
those at Earl's Court and elsewhere; buildings to look exactly like 
prisons or castles or cathedrals or anything that is wanted. These 
men took great loads of material down to Lulworth and made no 
bones about producing a veritable castle, ramparts and all. 

In the meantime a rumour went round the village that a 'Sir' 
was coming to live in it with his entourage for several days. We 
engaged rooms for as many as could be accommodated at the Castle 
Inn, appropriately named, although ours was the only castle 
within a mile or two, and the rest were accommodated in various 
parts of the village. The whole place frothed with excitement and 
everybody wanted to know when the 'Sir' was coming and where 
the 'Sir' would stay and for how long. 

The castle, when it was finished, looked as if it had been there 
for centuries and would stand for as long again. The 'ghost 5 had 
real rocks to walk upon, which he said hurt his feet badly, though 
he looked much too transparent to care for anything so concrete 
as that — when he has portrayed by double-photography. We all 
had a very pleasant time at Lulworth during those few days and 
when I went down there again a year or two later I had the 
greatest difficulty in rinding the site of the 'Castle' for not the 
slightest trace of it remained. All the people were still asking for 
news of the 'Sir' and probably a few of them will remember his 
visit now, for nothing so grand had ever happened to Lulworth 
Cove before. 

But before the castle was cleared away we used it for some of 
the scenes in a film of the Princes in the Tower with little Reggie 
Sheffield (Eric Desmond) as one of the young victims. However, 
most of the Lulworth pictures were of a more cheerful, not to say 
hilarious, nature like Tilly and the Coastguards, one of the last of the 
famous Tilly series, and there was another whose title I have 
forgotten in which Chrissie White played the part of a mermaid 
with a long fair wig and a plait, and there was a reversing film 
with a barrel which rolled a long way and smashed itself to 
bits over a cliff: then healed itself again and sailed right out 
to sea. 

About this time (we are still in 19 13), Sir Charles Wyndham, 
the famous actor-manager, honoured us with a visit. It was really 
rather sad, for this fine artist, whom I had seen and admired in so 
many delightful plays, came to Walton to make a film of his 



117 



favourite and most successful play, David Garrick. We were only 
too willing to do all that we could to help him but this great old 
gentleman had lost nearly all of his memory and could hardly 
take in any of the things we wanted him to do. He had a lady with 
him who was most patient and helpful but it was plain that he 
was past understanding the unusual conditions in which he was 
required to work. 

Miss Mary Moore, who always acted with him and was then, 
or afterwards became, his wife, asked me point blank what age 
she would look if she took in the film her usual part with Sir 
Charles. I was obliged to answer truthfully that, in spite of make- 
up or any other artful aid, she would just look her age or a very 
little younger. She immediately threw up the part and picked out 
a pretty young lady from our own company to play it instead. Her 
first choice was Claire Hulcup but she afterwards changed her 
mind and asked if they could have Chrissie White instead as she 
was even more suitable for the part. 

The two Hulcups were clever and adaptable people with plenty 
of resource and very pleasant to work with, for they slipped into 
our ways easily and soon became an integral part of our com- 
munity. Claire assumed the surname of Pridelle, and she and her 
husband and Hay Plumb were the life and soul of the 'Vivaphone' 
until its end. They played many other parts as well and we were 
very sorry to lose them when they finally decided to leave us. 

Still another actor-knight came to bask in the partly artificial 
sunshine of our studio about this time in 19 13. Sir John Martin 
Harvey came with his company to make The Cigarette Maker's 
Romance, produced by Frank Wilson. 

It is very important to realise that the making of a successful 
film from an existing stage-play is very far from being a mere 
photographing of the various scenes as they have appeared on the 
stage. It is true that a few inexperienced companies did attempt 
to do it in that way but the horrible mess which was the inevitable 
result soon proved a sufficient deterrent to others who sought to 
take that easy path. At that time of our Hamlet production for 
Gaumont I wrote a description which may be quoted now in this 
connection: — 

* Words in the play must, of course, be translated into action in 
the film. It was necessary to interpolate all sorts of scenes, visuali- 
sing episodes which are merely described in the play. The Queen's 
explanation that she has seen Ophelia gathering flowers by the 



118 



side of a glassy stream is, for instance, quite useless for the purpose 
of the silent pictorial version; we had to show the incident in 
actuality. Wherever possible we took the beautiful scenery painted 
by Hawes Graven for Forbes-Robertson as our model for the 
special cinematograph scenery which it was necessary to construct, 
but, where he had used flat cloths, we had to use solids, including 
huge carved Norman columns 2 ft. 6 ins. in diameter. Then, as 
you know, we built a complete reconstruction of Elsinore Castle 
at Lulworth Cove. 

c Some other very beautiful outdoor scenes were taken at 
Hartsbourne Manor, the residence of Maxine Elliott, Lady 
Robertson's sister. The orchard scene was enacted in a private 
garden at Halliford-on-Thames, where the conditions we wanted 
were found — a beautiful old apple-tree, of such a shape and size 
as would compose well in our picture, overhanging a smooth 
lawn such as one would expect to find in the grounds of a king's 
palace. Ophelia "died" in the stream at Hartsbourne Manor, 
where, also, she was "buried" — in a dug grave beside a specially 
built church. The scene showing the Queen watching her gather- 
ing flowers was taken by the side of a private lake at Walton-on- 
Thames, where, of course, all the magnificent interiors were 
produced in our own studios.' 

But although we made several films from stage plays we were 
by no means convinced that that was the best thing to do. It 
generally gave the advantage of a well-made plot, which was not 
at all easy to come by in original film scenarios, but we kept to 
specially written stories whenever we could get them. Drake's Love 
Story was a quite successful instance. The Bioscope of February 
27th, 19 13, started its description this way: 'One's first sensation on 
seeing this very fine production by the Hepworth Company is a 
feeling of gratification that the splendid chapter of English history 
which it represents has been immortalised in pictures not by a 
foreign firm but by a company essentially and entirely English. 
For too long we have been forced to endure the ignominy of 
having our first literary masterpieces and our noblest historical 
passages flung back in our faces, as it were, by people of another 
land, and apart from other considerations, we must all be ready 
appreciatively to recognise the laudable efforts of Messrs. Hep- 
worth to remove this ancient reproach and to establish the art of 
film manufacture on quite as high and as national a basis in our 
own as in other countries . . .' Hay Plumb took the name part 



"9 



in this film, and very well he looked and acted it, and the always 
charming Chrissie White played opposite him. 

Plumb and Gladys Sylvani were the principals in a considerable 
number of the films we made around this time, but Chrissie and 
Alma Taylor were coming very much to the front, and Madge 
Campbell was doing good work in many 'Vivaphone' subjects as 
well as more serious work in several of the larger films. 

It was during this general period — from 19 10 onwards — that 
significant and important changes in the aspect of film affairs in 
this country were seething up all around us and necessarily 
impinging on our own situation. The same necessity today 
suggests that I should give a short account of them although — 
except so far as I may have been actually influenced by them — 
they do not really concern this story. Indeed, working more or 
less out in the country, I was to some extent only vaguely aware 
of what was going on and did not consciously take any steps to 
adapt our conditions to those of our contemporaries. This may or 
may not have been a good thing: it was certainly not an intentionally 
superior attitude, but I am not at all sure that it did not serve us 
well. 

It seems that foreign countries got tired at last of importing 
English films and were retaliating by making their own and 
unloading them upon us — naturally enough. The trouble was that 
many of them were better than ours, but that, too, was better for 
all of us in the end. Film production in this country had got into 
a rut and, with very exceptional bright flashes, seemed content to 
stay in it. I am uncomfortably conscious that in my case there was 
a feeling that we were doing very nicely, thanks — principally on 
account of our foreign trade and particularly because of that 
anaesthetising American standing order, and had no sufficient 
urge to push out into wider seas. In one way and another that 
seems to have been true of all the English trade. So the foreigners 
got a start of us and when we did begin to wake up and rub our 
eyes it was all we could do to keep our places in the race — little 
we could do to recover ground we had lost. 

It was, I think, the Americans who first began to encroach upon 
the chosen field of my company — romantic drama (but it was 
mixed up with any amount of other things) . The Italian com- 
panies specialised in spectacular subjects — which they handled 
remarkably well, while a kind of midway place was taken by 
Nordisk, the great Danish company. The French, who had held 



120 



for so long the field of exciting tricks, were nearly out of sight and 
the Germans had not yet put in an appearance. This, it seems to 
me, was where we came to life again, but I am bound to confess 
the vagueness of my outlook and the very faulty memory which 
drives me to seek the aid of contemporary accounts. 

I am on slightly surer ground in the matter of our own produc- 
tions, when we led the way, so it is alleged, with Till Death Do Us 
Part, with Gladys Sylvani and Hay Plumb, and gave it more 
publicity than usual. These two artists were very well received, 
both for their considerable good looks and for their restrained and 
effective work; and this film was followed six months later by 
RacheVs Sin, with the same principals in the cast, and a greater 
strength of dramatic incident and action. 

Another very important sign of the times was the increasing use 
of theatrical actors in films, partly, it must be supposed, because 
of increasing demand for artists and the scarcity of trained film- 
actors outside the ranks of the regular stock-companies. But their 
incursion was by no means an unmixed blessing for they were not 
graciously inclined to a new technique and were over-apt to the 
opinion that they already knew all that there was to learn. Among 
things they had to learn was the prime necessity of restraint of 
gesture: they had to learn not to act. In moving pictures it is most 
important to be able to keep still and only to move when necessary 
and then as little as possible. 

A couple of actors doing nothing 'up stage' — that is, at the back 
— must do exactly that, for if one of them so much as flicks a 
handkerchief the attention of the audience will be immediately 
diverted to him and away from the figure in front where it 
properly belongs. This 'direction of attention' is one of the most 
important qualifications of a producer who knows his job. He can 
take and hold the attention just exactly where he wants it to be 
by the deft manipulation of small, quite unobtrusive movements 
opposed to stillness. Alternatively, think of the dramatic 'attention 
value' of the only still figure in a ballroom or a moving crowd. 

It is, of course, understood that I am speaking only of silent film 
technique — these things may not necessarily be so important in 
sound films which have other means of accomplishing the same 
results. But I have often felt in a modern picture, that the director 
is sometimes obtaining effects by mere enormity of scenery and 
properties, which could just as well be attained by better attention 
to, perhaps knowledge of, such little things as these. Lavish 



121 



expenditure of money and wasted time is not a wise substitute for 
care about minor details: it may even wreck the enterprise which 
a little greater skill would have saved. 

But that is only a parenthesis. To go back to where it began; I 
hope I have not allowed it to be inferred that the developments I 
have mentioned are a mere epitome of the occurrences of a single 
year. On the contrary they represent a crescendo of change which 
began in or around 191 1 and continued for a long time — 
continued in some respects indeed right up to the year of the 
Great War. And it is interesting to note that while our pictures, 
for instance, were all the time growing larger and better, were 
being better acted and produced by better artists, we were also 
continuing to turn out a number of smaller films of the kind which 
had already attained great popularity because of their genuine 
feeling and appeal. In February, 19 10, Black Beauty appeared 
again in a new edition, and at the end of the year in Dumb 
Comrades, there was another heart-stirring rescue of a little girl by 
a pony and a dog. In February 'Rover' died. Even his name was 
only an assumed one for theatrical purposes. His real name was 
Blair in commemoration of his Scottish origin. He was a true 
friend and a great companion, but my most persistent memory of 
him is the way every morning in life he jumped up on a washing 
basket by my dressing-table and waited and longed for a dab on 
the nose from my shaving brush. Then, with every expression of 
ineffable happiness, he licked off every trace of soap and waited 
for more. 

During this period, and right up to the end, I used a device 
which attracted both favourable and unfavourable comment. 
This was the 'fade-off' of every scene at the end and the correspond- 
ing 'fade-on' at the beginning of the next. This gave the impres- 
sion of a dissolve between each scene into the one following and 
created a feeling of smoothness — avoided the harsh unpleasant 
'jerk' usually associated with change of scene. It was not a 
dissolve, of course, for that is an actual gradual mixing of one scene 
into the next, exactly in the manner of the old-time dissolving 
views. 

For the sake of clarity I should point out here the technical 
meaning of the word 'scene.' A scene is a picture taken from one 
point of view by the camera without stopping. The camera may 
revolve (panoram) or even travel in a car or truck, but so long as 
the scene is continuous it is one scene. If it is interrupted by a 



122 



sub-title or other interpolation, it ends as one scene and continues 
as another. 

It was held by some critics that my 'dissolves' wasted time and 
used up film-stock unnecessarily. On the contrary they very often 
saved time. For instance, a man walking out of one room and into 
another. In the usual method he must, for the sake of continuity, 
be seen rising from his chair, walking across to the door, opening 
it (change to next scene), coming into the room, perhaps closing 
door, crossing to the centre where the action is to continue. My 
double fade covered almost all this ; really speeded up the action 
while seeming to make it smoother, and saved, besides time and 
footage, the jerky change from one scene to the other. Alternatively 
in a long smooth sequence, an unexpected jerk may be dramatic- 
ally important and then it can be used with redoubled effect. 

Another favourite device of mine, of which — with the fade — 
most people left me in sole enjoyment was the 'vignette.' I had 
found by an early experiment that a soft vignetted edge all round 
the picture was much more aesthetically pleasing than a hard 
line and the unrelieved black frame. Once, long ago, when 
Charles Pathe came to see me and I showed him one or two of 
my very early films, he said in effect — for he had very little 
English — 'Why need those small houses be so ugly? There is no 
reason why, for this film, they should not have been pretty 
cottages.' I never forgot that. Always, all my life since, I have 
striven for beauty, for pictorial meaning and effect in every case 
where it is obtainable. Much of my success, I am sure, is in the 
aesthetic pleasure conveyed, but not recognised, by the beauty of 
the scene and generally mistaken for some unknown other quality 
in the film. It is like music with modern picture-plays : many peo- 
ple do not hear it at all, but it may add a great deal to their enjoy- 
ment, unless it has the opposite effect and does quite the reverse. 

About the vignette: it is produced by a carefully adjusted little 
frame just in front of my lens, which, being so close, is entirely out 
of focus and merely gives a pleasing soft edge to the picture. But 
the drawback was that I could no longer use my 'fade-out' in the 
ordinary way, for stopping down the lens naturally brought the 
little frame progressively into focus and spoilt the effect. For those 
who are interested, the answer was a photographic 'wedge' — a 
strip of glass, black at one end and clear at the other with infinite 
gradations between them, and this was arranged to slide from 
clear to black before the lens by just pulling a string, and so 



123 



produced the gentle black-out without affecting the appearance of 
the vignette frame. 

Perhaps the greatest menace to the homogeneity of the silent 
film was the necessity of titles to explain what could not be 
conveyed pictorially. They should never be used unless it is 
practically impossible to tell some part of the story without them. 
They are like what a lie is said to be: an abomination unto the 
Lord but an ever-ready help in time of trouble. In careless hands 
the time of trouble happened much too often and it was much 
easier to slip in a title than do without it at the cost of making the 
scene again properly. 

I know it may be said that the silent film is dead and buried 
long ago: why worry about it now? But the silent film is resurrected 
and, in the hands of a thousand enthusiastic amateurs, is going 
through all the joys and tribulations it suffered with me and my 
contemporaries before these critics were born. If anything I can 
say may be of use to the amateurs I am not going to be stopped 
from saying it. The 16 mm. film may be a most valuable training 
ground for future 35 mm. experts. It may conceivably even take 
the place of the larger film in due course. To every 16 mm. 
camera-man I send my most enthusiastic salutations. Go on and 
prosper! You are the pioneers in a very valuable enterprise. For 
the time being you must use titles, but make them as carefully as 
you possibly can, so that their unworthiness as part of a moving 
picture may not be too obvious. Never use a title if the meaning 
can be made clear in film without being long and tedious. Never 
use a title to state what the scene itself is about to state. Use it 
where necessary to record what speech would say if sound were 
at your command, and use it to tell of the lapse of time if that 
must be told. But don't, if you can help it, say ' — Came the Dawn.' 
And don't say 'End of Part I — Part II will follow immediately.' 
Because it never does. 




124 



CHAPTER 12 



Before I began on this rough and very incomplete resume of 
the general condition of the English film trade in the period from 
1 9 10 onwards, and was led on from that to a generalisation on the 
silent films then and their modern counterpart in 16 mm., I was 
dealing with Drake's Love Story at the latter part of 19 12. Then the 
very successful Oliver Twist, directed by Thomas Bentley, was the 
fore-runner, as I have said, of several other Dickens films, most of 
which, by the way, had already been produced by other firms and 
were to be followed again by many others. The next one on our 
list was the dreadfully difficult story of David Copperfield. 

Bentley certainly loved his Dickens and there is no gainsaying 
the fact that he turned out a great deal of very good work which 
rebounded considerably to his credit and also to ours. He was a 
rum chap but I found him very pleasant to work with. He went to 
Dover among many other places in the making of this film. When 
he came back he told me that he had found the very house that 
Dickens had described. I remember the joyful glee with which he 
recounted how he had managed to secure in the picture, the fascia 
board upon it saying that it was 'the House immortalised by 
Dickens as the Home of Miss Betsy Trot wood.' I do not think 
he ever understood why I received this news with so little 
enthusiasm. 

There came to see me at this time a wonderful little boy with 
masses of curly hair and a most angelic expression. He was a 
delightful child with the name of Reggie Sheffield and he was 
tremendously interested in 'wireless' which had scarcely been 
heard of then. He had a little 'set' with which he could sometimes 
pick up morse from some unknown station. With his childish 
imagination he would picture some great ship in distress, or maybe 
only making port. He brought with him a slightly older boy, an 
awkward fellow named Noel Coward whom I disliked immedi- 
ately. I looked down upon him then: I look up to him now with 



125 



veneration and respect as one of the most amazingly clever people 
of our time. 

Reggie Sheffield, under the film name of Eric Desmond, was 
cast for the part of the young Copperfield in the early part of the 
film, but direction failed there, for he too often looked at the 
camera or the producer when he was spoken to. Either of these 
faults should be the instant signal for the retaking of the scene. 
There is no excuse for not doing that. Reggie played in several 
other films for us before returning, to my sorrow, to his native 
America and he did not again repeat those faults. I hear that he 
now has a son exactly like he was at that age, playing at present 
in 'Tarzan 5 pictures. 

'Copperfield' was another success in spite of the great difficulties 
of dealing with such a complicated and diffuse story, and it was 
followed by others of the same line which I will mention as I come 
to them. In the meantime there was The Vicar of Wakefield which 
Blanche Macintosh cleverly adapted for me in August, 19 13. It 
was a very pleasant little picture of gentle people with no great 
strength of incident. She also made a very good adaptation a few 
months later of The Heart of Midlothian which was well acted and 
well received, and then the same lady branched off on her own 
account with an original scenario specially written for us, with a 
skilful eye upon the histrionic material available in our stock- 
company. This was called Time, the Great Healer, and it was 
played by Alma Taylor, Tom Powers, Stewart Rome, Chrissie 
White and Violet Hopson, the very cream of the company. It was 
a pleasing story on somewhat conventional lines, but none the 
worse for that, and it gave ample opportunity for the various 
players to exploit their strongest capabilities to the best 
advantage. 

Tom Powers came over from America at the suggestion of 
Larry Trimble who very strongly recommended him to me as a 
most useful actor of the type which was called on the stage at that 
time, 'juvenile lead.' Larry thought that both he and I might use 
him with great advantage. He was indeed an exceedingly nice boy 
who acted well and proved a valuable acquisition to our company 
of players. He had a much more powerful part in Morphia which 
was written for him by the same lady and produced by me. I 
remember it most for the fact that I was able to obtain without 
difficulty from a local chemist, a tube containing a considerable 
quantity of morphia tablets, so that the film might be as accurate 



126 



as possible in an important detail. That is another instance of the 
difference between those times and these. 

I alluded some while back to the American standing order for 
our films as being in effect 'anaesthetising.' Appropriately, it came 
to an end while we were finishing Morphia. I once wrote a film 
scenario myself called The Basilisk. The name part was played by 
William Felton and the thing I best remember about it was the 
very sinister effect I obtained, as he sat at a table facing the 
camera, by lighting his cadaverous face with brilliant green light 
through a hole in the table top. The 'green,' of course, was 
supplied by stain in the finished print. I haven't mentioned this 
film before because it was not at all a good one and it was my only 
effort at writing for the film. But I wrote a story once of which 
I was inordinately proud. I was very young indeed and I was 
inflamed by the offer of a prize in some child's periodical. It was 
to take the form of a bound volume for the whole year in return 
for a short original story. I got down to it. I chewed the handles off 
several pens, struggled with the difficulties of plot construction 
and sentence building and eventually evolved a tragic tale upon 
which I bestowed the glorious title of The Tragedy of Trundletown. 
I was as proud of this effort as I have ever been of a film since — 
in fact I should think it must have been very like a rubbishy film 
in embryo. It was with difficulty I lived through the long days and 
weeks till the magazine at last arrived. I scrambled through page 
after page until I came to my story. My glorious title had been 
changed to Poor Gertie and all my joy in life was dead. I have 
hated editors ever since. 

Early in 19 14, or perhaps at the end of the previous year, I 
personally produced for the Ideal Company, a film called The 
Bottle, written, I think, by Albert Chevalier and certainly played 
by him. Chevalier was an exceedingly nice man and a wonder- 
fully good actor, and although he was temperamental and some- 
times difficult he was on the whole a good fellow to work with. I 
think he liked me and we got on very well in this film which was 
quite a good job of work and was most enthusiastically received 
by the brothers Rowson, for whom it was made. 

Chevalier was responsible for the plot of My Old Dutch, which 
was based upon one of his most popular songs. It was probably 
put into script form by Larry Trimble who produced it, with 
Chevalier in the principal part, for the Ideal Company, to follow 
The Bottle. And I made another film with Chevalier on another 



127 



of his stage scenas, called The Fallen Star, which was full of excellent 
work on his part. He was a really great artist as well as a thor- 
oughly good fellow, and it is an honour to have worked with him. 

In the early part of 19 14, I also produced two more films from 
the prolific pen of Blanche Macintosh, a powerful and dramatic 
story with an important lesson in morals, and one with an 
entirely different theme called Love in the Mist. Meanwhile 
Bentley produced another Dickens film for us, The Old Curiosity 
Shop, with such members of our company as were suitable to the 
parts, and made what was generally conceded to be the best of 
his three, followed by yet another in The Chimes, before the year 
came to an end. 

It was the fatal year of the outbreak of the biggest war the 
world had ever known and it heralded, rather curiously, an 
important increase in film production, though it was unlikely that 
the war was the cause. It probably just happened that the con- 
spicuous success of a few films made from well-known plays or 
books led to a general run of productions on the same lines. That, 
I think, was certainly what happened in our case. I was never 
pre-disposed to the transplanting of film plots from another and 
different medium, holding that the course most likely to be satis- 
factory was the direct writing of material ostensibly and actually 
for the medium in which it was to be used. But public demand 
became too clamant to be ignored and I decided further to try 
out this alien method and see where it would lead us. 

One of the many sad results of the outbreak of war, a very sad 
one from my point of view, was the sudden withdrawal of Larry 
Trimble and his colleagues back to America. Their presence in 
this country for the two or three years they were here had been a 
great pleasure and happiness to me, and, more than that, a real 
incentive and encouragement. I have no doubt they were right to 
leave while the leaving was good, but I missed them very badly. 

Captain Baynes, who was perhaps more responsible than 
anyone else for persuading me to devote more and more of our 
efforts to the making of films from currently popular plays and to 
splash large quantities of posters and other publicity upon them, 
had been on the staff for some months when he called upon me at 
my house one evening. He asked me if I would like a St. Bernard 
puppy. I said I had always had collies and had no experience of 
bigger dogs, but when he put his hands in the two outside pockets 
of his waterproof and pulled out two puppies, one in each hand, 



128 



and said I was welcome to whichever one I chose, my defences all 
broke down. For they were the most adorable things in the puppy 
line I had ever seen and my wife fell in love with them on the spot 
and so did the children. We chose the dog and in due course 
Baynes put the other one back in his pocket and left 'Sturdee,' as 
we promptly called him, in his new home. He grew up to be a 
glorious specimen of his noble race and he was my indispensable 
companion for many years, and though he did not take any 'star' 
part in films he often 'walked on 5 in minor roles or strolled about 
in the background. I am sorry to say he once or twice disgraced 
me by hurting children in over-exuberant demonstrations of what 
was supposed to be affection and got me into trouble with the 
police on one occasion, when they took me to court and suggested 
he ought to be destroyed. But while I was dreading the worst and 
wildly wondering how I could possibly evade it, he got off with a 
caution and set my spirit free. 

The war, of course, played the dickens with most of our affairs 
and arrangements. For one thing it early drained away the 
younger members of the staff and although they were less impor- 
tant than many of the others, the work often had to be done by 
those others or by some different substitute. I call to mind a 
curious instance of this. I think I have mentioned that our 
method of drying was to wind up the wet film as it came from the 
developing machine, take it on its spool up to the drying-rooms 
and there festoon it on the hooks strung on wires under the 
ceiling. I had all along been intending to make the developing 
machines complete by linking them with drying-banks operating 
in close conjunction with them, but that project had somehow got 
postponed in the more exciting affairs of making film pictures and 
running a business. Meanwhile the hand- work was quick and not 
very difficult, but several youngsters had to be allocated to it. 

I saw that they and many others would soon be withdrawn and 
I determined to make the drying arrangements automatic and 
linked mechanically to the developing machines. The scheme was 
easy to work out but it was difficult to get made anything mechan- 
ical. I wanted dozens of brass tubes with hundreds of flanges on 
them for the film to travel along. I obtained the tubes and got 
'blanks' of approximately the right size for the flanges. But they 
had to be machined to exactly the right dimensions and shaped so 
as to lead the wet film on without damaging it. 

Alma Taylor volunteered to do any work she could when she 



129 



was not acting. So I set up my big lathe for her, showed her how 
to 'chuck' the 'blanks' for the flanges, and I set the tools in the 
slide-rest so that they could only be fed up against fixed stops, and 
showed her how to get on with it. She turned those hundreds of 
flanges exactly to dimension and then I heated them up and 
shrunk them one at a time in position on the long tubes. 'Pretty 
sort of film star' some people will say, but I thought it was pretty 
good, and I still think so. 

One of the drying-machines was soon set up and it worked well. 
The wet film came up through a hole in the floor direct from the 
troughs below, dried without help and wound itself up on spools. 
Output was quickened and workers freed for other things. 

For some curious reason, as I have said, which now seems very 
difficult of explanation, the onset of the first World War corres- 
ponded in time with the coming into fashion of film pictures made 
from well-known stage plays or from recently published books. 
Whether it was an understandable desire to cash in on popularity 
already acquired or only a result of the paucity of original 
material suitable for the purpose, I cannot be sure; probably it 
was a little of both. I remember I was very strongly urged by 
friends whose opinion I valued to look to books or the stage for 
material. 

I realised that that would always mean the rebuilding of the 
story entirely, for the stage and book technique is necessarily very 
different from that of the studio. We had a clever scenario writer 
at hand and that difficulty was easy of solution. After considerable 
thought and discussion, I took the advice of my friend Baynes, 
who had first put the idea to me, and very strongly urged that I 
should at least try it out with that enormously successful book, 
ComirC Thro'' the Rye, and I asked him to get in touch with the 
authoress, Helen Mathers, whose real name was Mrs. Helen 
Reeves. He did so and eventually purchased the film rights for 
five years for a sum that did not appear unreasonable. We had, as 
I have pointed out, dealt with several other books before and made 
them into films, but these were all books of which the copyright 
had expired and there was no question of payment for the use of 
the material. 

This was a different matter. Copyright now in any original 
work 'subsists,' as they call it, during the life of the author and for 
fifty years after his death, and he, and afterwards his heirs, can 
do anything he likes with it and demand any price he can get for 



130 



an outright or partial use of it. So we acquired the rights of 
ComirC Thro' the Rye for a limited period to adapt it and produce 
it as a film. Blanche Macintosh again turned her art to the making 
of a working script — by no means an easy matter, but she was very 
successful — and I produced the film with Alma Taylor in the 
principal part. With the rather reluctant consent of Mrs. Reeves, 
I dealt with the story as up to the date of that time and dressed 
the characters in modern clothes; for I did not see the necessity of 
going to the extra trouble and expense of dating it back some fifty 
years and making it a 'costume' piece, which the cinema industry 
was never at all inclined to favour. 

Perhaps I was wrong there, for many people objected to the 
introduction of a motor-car in a story that their children had 
known and loved very many years before such a thing was 
invented. But if you have heard at all of ComirC Thro' the Rye, it 
isn't this version of which you will be thinking. A much more 
ambitious film was produced many years later and of that I will 
tell when I come to it. 

Nevertheless there were thousands of people who had no 
previous memories to inhibit them, who liked this film tremen- 
dously and our first venture into the market-place where sole 
rights are purchasable was such a pronounced success that there 
was no difficulty in the future in persuading me to venture again. 
Helen Mathers, the authoress, was particularly pleased with the 
film version of her book — I think she was rather inclined to 'see' 
herself in the part that Alma played so convincingly! Anyhow, 
she pulled some strings which were to her hand and Queen 
Alexandra commanded a performance of the film in her presence. 

This took place, if I remember rightly, at Marlborough House, 
the scene of my first glimpse of royalty, when I was only a boy and 
she, this most beautiful lady — was the Princess of Wales. I do not 
know directly what she thought of it, but Helen Mathers, with 
shining eyes, reported that Her Majesty had been very pleased 
indeed with it. A week or two later I received the special tie-pin 
which goes to people in royal favour on these occasions, so I was 
duly gratified and I have kept the tie-pin ever since. 

After the undoubted success of ComirC Thro' the Rye, which was 
a complete vindication of friend Baynes' contention about the 
purchase of film rights in currently popular books, I willingly 
agreed to the purchase of the rights of Iris, a very dramatic 
Pinero play with an almost unbearably pathetic ending. It 



131 



may, of course, be quite properly argued that Iris, who was 
certainly no better than she should be, had only got just what she 
thoroughly deserved. But when a clever author and a clever 
producer, too, and a very charmingly innocent actress have spent 
the whole time of the play and of the film in building up the 
sympathy of the audience for the erring girl, she seems to deserve 
something better than a terrible fate. 

Alma played the part beautifully and she was most admirably 
supported by Henry Ajnley as Maldonado, though that was a 
part much away from his usual type. The scenery and dresses were 
entirely in keeping with the rich elegance in which the story was 
laid. With Pinero's consent I made an endeavour in the film 
version to soften the cruelty of the ending of this play. It gave me 
a great deal of trouble and I am not sure that it was at all successful. 
I wanted a view of the sea where there was a wide stretch of sand, 
the idea being that Iris, full of the thought of suicide and half 
demented, should be struggling towards the water when she sees, 
or thinks she sees, the man whom she has learned to love too late, 
and lost. It was not meant for a happy ending — there could hardly 
be that for Iris — but a kind of suggestion that there might be 
peace for her in the end. 

I certainly would not have attempted it if I had known what 
trying to take photographs on the sea-shore in wartime would be 
like. It took very many weeks to get permission and then the 
nearest place where I could be allowed to take a camera to the 
sea was on the north coast of Flintshire in Wales. I don't know how 
many times we were stopped on the two or three hundred miles 
to the sea or how many soldiers, policemen and coastguards 
questioned our right and disputed our authority, but we got there 
at last and my heavy Metallurgique car promptly settled down in 
the soft sand and looked as if it meant to stay there until the tide 
came up and buried it for good. But we managed to get it away 
before the tide reached it, and before we did that we secured the 
scene, which wasn't up to much after all. 

One week-end in the early days of the war there was a big 
scare in Walton because of great clouds of smoke seen to be 
pouring up from the side of the new studio or from the enclosed 
space between that and the old one. People began to rush to 
Hurst Grove from all sides under the assurance that Hepworths 
had got alight again. Miss Macintosh who lived just opposite and 
had a key of the studios in case of accidents, let herself in and 



132 



telephoned to the fire brigade, who arrived much more promptly 
than they usually did for a real fire. Then the god out of the 
machine, in the shape of dear old Hales, the handy man, the 
stove-tender and general fellow-of-all-work, strolled casually out 
and wanted to know why a man could not trim the furnaces with 
a little small-coal without causing all that fuss! 




133 




CHAPTER 13 

For the screen version of Pinero's next play, Sweet Lavender, it was 
necessary to take a few London scenes in Fountain Court, Temple, 
a typical little garden much frequented by the guardians of the 
law. Being nothing if not courteous, we humbly begged permission 
from the powers that were, applying, as is right and proper, to the 
highest authority available. We were met with a most peremptory 
'certainly not.' So we held a council of ways and means to consider 
the various possibilities. First there was a visit in mufti, so to 
speak, to the sacred spot to observe and report upon conditions 
there — direction of sunlight at various times, best positions for the 
camera on the one hand and for the actors on the other in each of 
the views it was desired to take. Particularly did we want to know 
how the place was guarded. This last, the most important point, 
proved to be the easiest, for the uniformed custodian was observed 
to make a round of all the gardens here, which took him about one 
hour, before he returned again to any one spot. 

It was decided that I must not take any part in the operations 
as it wouldn't do for me to be caught. So the others, with Geoff. 
Faithfull at the head, took charge and engaged a room at a nearby 
pub where the actors assembled and robed themselves for the fray. 
A couple of cabs were engaged and told to stand by. At the 
prearranged moment, that is when the keeper had just finished at 
the spot selected for the first shot, the cabs full of actors streamed 
on to the place of action. Every scene had been carefully rehearsed 
beforehand and they were to be dealt with in the order arranged. 



134 



Camera-man took up his spot and the actors theirs. The scene was 
taken and all moved on to the next position, following in the wake 
of the unconscious keeper. All the scenes were secured in their 
order and the participants were back in their dressing-room-pub 
before he got round again to the first position. Nice work, I 
thought. 

Once when I was 'directing 5 Albert Chevalier and Henry 
Ainley in a scene from The Outrage, a war picture which Chevalier 
had written, there was a moment when I could not, in words, 
make them understand exactly what I wanted. In a sudden rush 
of enthusiasm, I seized one of their swords and struck the attitude 
and expression I had in mind. Chevalier said: 'Good gracious! 
The man is an artist!' High praise indeed from him; it covered me 
with blushes under which I crept back to my camera. The Outrage 
was a powerful short story, laid in a period of chivalry and 
romance, with a terrible incident which had its reflection in 
several of the current stories of German atrocities. 

Although we produced a large number of war-subjects at the 
instance of the Government, especially later on, we by no means 
neglected the needs of the general public for relaxation in this 
time of stress, as I have already said. But there was one short 
topical which we made on our own account and without any 
other prompting than the excitement of the times. It was called 
Unfit or The Strength of the Weak, and we produced it very quickly, 
for it was written overnight and put in hand the next morning. 
The principal scene was laid in a part of Walton called Cowey 
Stakes, appropriately enough, some low-lying land beside the river 
where the victorious Roman armies were said to have crossed it so 
many years ago. It was played by Stewart Rome, Marie de Solla 
and Violet Hobson, and Tom Powers played, very well indeed, the 
role of a young man, refused by the army and afterwards con- 
spicuously brave in the service of his country at home, a theme 
very often used as the war wearily continued, due perhaps to our 
instinctive sublimation of some of our own unconscious hopes. 
The length of this film was 1,175 feet and it was published on 
October 15th, 19 14. 

Almost at the same time we produced His Country s Bidding, a 
drama of 1,750 feet, whose lesson may be deduced from the title. 
But it is also a very strong love-story with marital duty triumphant 
in the end over passionate love. Here we had Stewart Rome again 
with Alma Taylor and Harry Royston. And then, to even things 



135 



up a bit, still in the same month, we had a rousing 'comic' called 
Simkin Gets the War Scare, with Tom Butt in the name part and a 
length of 525 feet. 

These three 'Contributions to the War' were described under 
the flaming cover of a huge union jack, with the important dates 
of publication, but so well known did we evidently think we were 
that there isn't even a mention of our address. 

But in the synopsis of The Baby on the Barge, which came out in 
the following year (19 15), we had sufficiently regained our 
modesty to submit our full address, '2, Denman Street, Piccadilly 
Circus, London W. 1.' This was another powerful story by Blanche 
Macintosh who used a quite different version of the jealousy 
theme to which she was rather addicted. It is the first time, I think, 
that the picturesqueness of barge-life and canal scenery was 
called into play for film work. Alma Taylor, with a baby not 
named in the cast, played the wrongfully-suspected wife, and 
Stewart Rome the husband who suspected her on very flimsy 
-evidence. Lionelle Howard, then a rather recent recruit to the 
company, was her brother, whose suspicious action, after thinking 
he had killed a man in self-defence, led to the trouble. Also in the 
cast were Violet Hopson, Henry Vibart and William Felton. The 
length was 3,000 feet. Vibart, if not exactly in the stock-company 
was certainly of it, and he was very popular and very dear to all 
of us. 

I am, of course, passing over dozens of films in various stages of 
production about this time — only mentioning an occasional one 
here and there which seems to indicate the general trend of our 
work. It is to be assumed, if you please, that we were always going 
on as before, but at greater length, and increasing in solid value. 

While I was writing this I received a letter from a man who was 
compiling a series of books for the British Film Academy about 
films in the early days, and he had been unable to obtain any 
information about 'editing' silent films. He had been told to ask 
me if I would be willing to supply it. Then I realised to my surprise 
that I knew nothing whatever about editing. None of my films had 
ever been 'edited.' Editing in film production means broadly, 
cutting out unnecessary pieces and joining in and rearranging 
others to get the best effect. 

I always held the view that the editing should be done in the 
original script, before ever an inch of it goes under the camera. 
I had heard of producers exposing ten thousand feet or more for 



136 



a five thousand foot film and then cutting the scenes short, or out, 
to bring it down to the prearranged length. This seemed to me to 
be all wrong and not merely on the score of economy. When an 
artist starts to paint a picture he does not select a canvas twice 
the area he wants for the finished work. On the contrary he spends 
a very great deal of thought and attention on the arranging of the 
various parts of his design, the balance of masses, the shape and 
direction of lines, the light and shade, the contrast of colour and 
the whole question of what he calls his 'composition' before he 
puts a brush to his palette. It stands to reason that if he attempted 
to cut down his canvas after he had painted it he must of necessity 
leave out something which at first he had thought to be 
important. 

So I gave the same thought and attention to my script. I 
re-transcribed every word of it myself, chewing over every line in 
my mind, cutting out and rearranging the pieces as seemed to me 
to be best and stopping and forcing myself to visualise every 
little scene as it was to appear on the screen. I even estimated its 
length and jotted that down on the paper. So when I went on the 
floor I knew exactly what I wanted, where every actor was to 
stand at the beginning of the scene, where and at what cue he was 
to move and, of course, what he was to portray not how he was to 
portray it — that was his business, not mine: I am not an actor. 
One thing I had to be specially careful about; what I called the 
various 'boiling points' of the different artists. I knew from 
experience that some of them come to the peak of their endeavour 
after, say, ten rehearsals while others boil up after three. Also that 
if they once pass the peak, you never get such good work out of 
them again in that scene. So the 'early boilers' had to be tactfully 
asked to stand aside for a bit while the 'simmerers' were poked up 
a little and all brought to the boil at the same moment! That is 
one of the advantages of a stock-company: you get to know these 
things ! 

Nevertheless, it did frequently happen that for failure in this or 
some other respect it was advisable to repeat a scene, and then I 
wrote on my script which 'take' was to be printed though, of 
course, the others would be held in reserve. 

When I was rearranging the script in the beginning I wrote in 
every sub-title and every spoken title which was to appear in 
printed words on the screen. The actors were instructed to use 
this wording where it occurred; in all other places they were 



137 



encouraged to use their own words — any which came natural to 
them within the emotional framework of the scene. 

Here I come to one of my most peculiar peculiarities. I never 
saw a single 'rush' — never had anything to do with any of the 
scenes after they were photographed until they were all joined 
together in their proper order with all the titles and sub-titles in 
place — in short, the whole thing completely finished. I am not 
asking you to believe that this is a good plan: I am quite sure it 
was good for me. 

To me it seemed, before I started to photograph a picture, that 
the whole thing stood up before me as a kind of misty mosaic for 
which I had to construct the various little pieces to be fitted into 
it afterwards. It had in my mind a kind of balance which I 
dreaded to disturb. I felt that if I had physical sight and know- 
ledge of these little pieces as they were finished — bits of the 
concrete mixed up with what was still abstract — the balance of 
my mental conception would be upset; I should lose my sense of 
proportion. 

I realise that all this may appear very egotistical, even con- 
ceited. I don't care. I am writing this book for my own pleasure 
and I am getting a great deal of pleasure in chewing the cud of 
my past endeavours. I am not hoping that it can give anything 
like that pleasure to you, though I feel very flattered that you 
should have persisted so far with it. But I think that an auto- 
biography must at least be honest in attempt, apart from what it 
may achieve in actual fact, and that it is up to the reader to cull 
from it what he can of interest or information or whatever it may 
be that he is hoping for and forgive the rest. If I try to hide 
anything under the bushel of affected modesty it will only spoil 
my pleasure and add nothing to yours. 

I will admit that this stoical refusal to see any 'rushes' of my 
films, or to look at any finished sequences, was heroic self-sacrifice 
which was very difficult to bear, for I am only human and never 
was any man more keen than I to gloat over his work the moment 
it was born. 

I see that Alfred Hitchcock, a great producer, has recently been 
preaching much the same gospel, from the same text; that the 
proper time to cut a film is at the script stage before ever it is 
photographed, but I don't think he would be able now to carry 
it as far as I did. The exigencies of film work with sound must at 
times call for close-cutting in the after stages. Two figures arguing 



138 



heatedly would probably be best built up in excitement by 
cutting sharply backwards and forwards from one to the other. 
Even there I would rather, for the sake of smoothness, keep them 
both in view in one longer shot and allow the expressions of both 
faces to be studied together. 

Smoothness in a film is important and should be preserved 
except when for some special effect a 'snap' is preferable. Un- 
reasoned jerkiness is tiring and unconsciously irritating. The 
'unities' and the 'verities' should always be observed, to which 
I would add the 'orienties.' Only the direst need will form an 
excuse for lifting an audience up by the scruff of its neck and 
carrying it round to the other side, just because you suddenly 
want to photograph something from the south when a previous 
scene has been taken from the north. The preservation of direction 
of movement is also very important. If a man goes out of a room 
by a door on the right and goes straight into another room he 
should, of course, make that latter entry from the left. But the 
second scene might be taken a month later than the first, so that 
detail may easily be forgotten. The 'continuity girl' should look 
after that, just as she should note to remind the actor how far he 
had smoked down his cigarette in the earlier scene. 





The cryptic diagram here indicates that the two characters have 
entered the scene from the left, and, having been joined by two 
others in the course of the action, leave it at the end of the 'take' 
by the right and coming 'down stage,' that is towards the camera. 

The vulgar fraction in the opposite corner is intended to show 
that the previous take in this same set was scene No. 5 and the next 
one in this set will be scene No. 47. That reduces the risk of 
forgetting to take a small but necessary shot and having to 
rebuild the whole set to photograph it later. Here I would like to 
acknowledge my indebtedness to my excellent script-writer, 
Blanche Macintosh (my long-term friend, Mrs. Hubbard), whose 



139 



writing I scarcely ever altered as I have said, although I always 
transcribed it for my own memorising purposes. 

I remember once having a talk with Pinero about some play of 
his which I was hoping to make into a film. He was always won- 
derfully kind and polite, as really clever people usually are. He 
said that he need not remind me of the great importance of 
'preparation' in play-writing or film-making. I agreed, though I 
hadn't the faintest idea what he meant. I took care to find out 
afterwards as soon as I possibly could. And afterwards I always 
arranged to 'prepare' beforehand — to lay down invisible tracks, 
so to speak — for the incident or adventure which was to come 
along later. It was like laying down ground-bait. You will 
have much better sport with your fishing if you go and attend to 
that the night before. 

There must, of course, be nothing blatant about this 'prepara- 
tion.' The audience will be entirely unaware of it and will not 
have the faintest idea what you are up to. When the situation 
spontaneously arises their minds will all unconsciously be attuned 
to respond to it, their eyes and ears agog for it. It will seem to come 
as a far more complete surprise than if you just sprung it upon 
them out of the blue. It will be much more effective and stimu- 
lating. 

An autobiography must, as I see it, include some allusion to 
the author's religion, or lack of it; for either state, positive or 
negative, must have importance in the development of his life. My 
own attitude in this matter needs no long description. When I was 
a youth I took religion seriously. I sang in a choir — though now 




140 



I see it was more a love of part-singing than of the church — and 
I prayed hard at every opportunity. I firmly believed that I 
should in consequence receive tremendous help in the next world 
— which is still problematical — and a great deal of assistance in 
this, which I didn't get. I really needed help at that time and none 
was forthcoming. My faith fizzled out and I dropped it, deciding 
that the whole question was beyond my mental powers. 

For among all the people I have read of there are hundreds of 
entirely different religions and all completely convinced that 
itself is the only true one. If all are wrong in the sight of the others 
it seems to me to be possible that all are wrong. But I am certainly 
not an atheist. I am, I suppose, an agnostic in what I take to be 
the true meaning of the word — one who simply does not know. I am 
unable to visualise a personal God, listening individually to the 
prayers of the millions of creatures struggling on this scrap of dirt 
called Earth. But that means nothing except the limitation of my 
own intellect — just as I cannot believe that time goes on for ever 
or that it comes to an end, for in that case what happens after- 
wards? 

My own spiritual need is only by some means to be able to 
express my gratitude. I have altogether failed in the writing of 
this book if I have not made it clear that my life on the whole has 
been a happy and satisfying one. I have had my ups and downs of 
course, but the ups have been greater than the downs. From the 
beginning I have had fun all through. Nearly everything I have 
done or touched has been something of a 'lark.' If I die tomorrow 
I shall have to admit that I have had a square deal and more than 
a square deal; I certainly have not been cheated. But this tardy 
acknowledgment is not sufficient. I have to say 'thank you' to 
someone. 

Now I certainly believe in a power, a spirit, a something 
responsible for all the marvels of the universe, marvels beggaring 
all description which surely cannot have happened by chance. 
But you cannot offer thanks to an abstraction, or at least I cannot. 
That is much too difficult. There has to be some 'name' to whom 
thanks can be addressed. So I am obliged to fall back upon the 
simple formula I learned at my mother's knee. And while I am 
expressing my gratitude — counting my blessings is what it really 
comes to — I feel I may as well voice my 'lively sense of favours to 
come' and put up a prayer for some of the little things I need. 

It is curious to note that these simple requests are very often 



141 



successful, too frequently to be accounted for by the ordinary 
laws of chance. That however need not imply any extra-mundane 
influence. The still only partially understood workings of the 
subconscious mind may take a hand in many of them, leaving 
chance to do the rest. The mass of evidence about faith healing is 
too great to be disregarded and our own subconscious minds seem 
to be the means by which it is accomplished. 'Suggestion,' they 
say, is the trigger which sets them off. It is apparently difficult to 
get at the subconscious mind but those little petitions may touch 
the trigger. 

All this has nothing whatever, or very little, to do with picture 
production, and now I will return to my main theme. 




142 



CHAPTER 14 

It has been suggested that I should give some short description 
of my method of working upon a film production in those 
days, since it differed in many respects from that of my contem- 
poraries — which is not, of course, to hint that it was any better 
than theirs and merely implies that the comparison might be 
informative but not odious. 

In this connection there is a little incident which jumps to my 
memory, probably because it tickled my conceited vanity. I was 
strolling past a partition which hid me from a group of three or 
fouj: of my producers and before I realised it I overheard what 
they* were saying. One said: 'He is always so beastly cocksure: 
knows exacdy what he wants and jolly well means to get it.' 'Yes/ 
said another, 'and the trouble is the beast is always right.' It 
dawned upon me that this was my cue for silent departure, with 
probably a silly fatuous smile upon my face at the slightly sinister 
compliment. 

But I think I see what they meant. I did always know what I 
wanted and certainly did intend to secure it. This was roughly the 
method. When I read a book or saw a play or studied a synopsis, 
there came into my mental vision a fairly detailed and consecutive 
pattern of what the film would be like. That pattern stuck in my 
head and gradually crystallised out into a definite form, while the 
working scenario was being prepared for me. 

The next step was to complete the crystallisation process. I 
chewed the scenario over bit by bit, suggested alterations and 
discussed them and finally I took it home and lived with it. At 
this stage I re-typed every scene, large and small, one page or 
more to each, wrote in titles and sub-titles by hand wherever they 
seemed necessary, and saw each detail of every set-up just as it was 
to appear. It was an imaginary picture but it was complete. 

Well, having got my personally transcribed scenario in treble 
form, that is in three books, one for me, one for camera and one 



143 



for art director, we were ready to make a start. Scenery and 
furniture got ready for 'sets'; itineraries prepared for exteriors 
(location, in modern speech) , artists consulted and encouraged, and 
all the usual preparations made — all this, of course, was common 
to every studio. 

Now it came to going on the floor and this is where my alleged 
foreknowledge came in. I was able to tell each actor where he was 
to stand, what his movements were to be and when, and give 
some indication of necessary gestures. The point I am trying to 
make is that I did not experiment with my actors, try them out 
first in one way and then in another and then clear them all off 
the stage and start over again. That is what breaks their hearts 
and shows up an incompetent director immediately. Then the 
scene was rehearsed quietly and gently as often as seemed neces- 
sary — I never possessed a megaphone — and when all the people 
were happy and comfortable in their parts, uncertainties smoothed 
away and 'inferiority complexes' resolved in confidence, then I set 
the camera exactly where I wanted it and gave the word to go. 

In those silent days the director was able to give a great deal of 
help to his actors by quiet prompting while the scene was actually 
in progress, for emotions had to be expressed and reactions indi- 
cated without the use of words. That is utterly different now that 
all the words are spoken and the action suited to them. 

But from all this it is not to be assumed that I was generally 
wedded to an indoor studio. The contrary was usually the case, for 
I would never work indoors if I could possibly get into the open 
air. It was always in the back of my mind from the very beginning 
that / was to make English pictures, with all the English countryside for 
background and with English atmosphere and English idiom throughout. 

When the Transatlantic films began to get a stranglehold upon 
the trade over here it came to be generally assumed that the 
American method and style of production was the reason for their 
success, and the great majority of our producers set about to try 
to imitate them. The Americans have their own idiom in picture 
making just as they have their own accent in speaking. It is not 
necessarily better than ours and it cannot be successfully copied. 
We have our own idiom too which they could not copy if they 
tried. It is our part to develop along the lines which are our heri- 
tage, and only in that way can we be true to ourselves and to 
those qualities which are ours. 

So it was that whenever I possibly could I packed apparatus 



144 




s 









s 







S 
g 



and staff into a big car and set off into the country, Surrey or 
Sussex, Devon or Cornwall, wherever there was prospect of 
beautiful scenery within the environment of the film to be 
produced. 

I do want to stress this point for it was not only true for me and 
my time but it is, I believe, always true for all time. We in 
England cannot make the films of foreign countries as they should 
be made, not for lack of skill or opportunity or material but for 
lack of inner understanding; of the sense and the feeling of their 
idiom. And they cannot make ours as well as they might be made, 
because they have not and cannot have the inner perception of 
our spiritual atmosphere. 

Still, perhaps I ought to drop the gentle reminder — against 
myself — that these are, after all, only my own ideas, that I have 
always had 'funny' notions. I would never use electric light if I 
could get daylight, would never allow the use of make-up of any 
description, made the stock-company players do small parts when 
necessary, however 'big' the parts they had just been taking; and 
so on. 

My earlier memories of the Walton studios, before they began 
to get entangled with visions of what are later called 'feature 
films, ' are mixed up with all sorts of strangely different personages 
from Cabinet Ministers and great actors to barrow boys and 
costers. One very famous comedian came to have a film made of 
his ever-popular music-hall act — I won't quote his name because 
he may have some posterity who might not like to hear it men- 
tioned in this way. When we got him on the stage we could not do 
anything with him at all — his alleged comedy was just a sobbing 
misery of sheer boredom. Over and over again we tried but he 
only got worse. Then someone who knew him whispered to me to 
send out for some brandy; plenty of it, for his friend, he said, was 
never much good unless he was thoroughly drunk. Much against 
my will I did so. The gentleman duly got drunk, very unpleasantly 
drunk, but as he progressed in inebriety his act became increas- 
ingly comic until he reached a stage when both his condition and 
his comedy became too outrageous to be borne. 

Another comedian I remember was a complete contrast for 
though he was certainly not of the upper classes, he was a shy and 
friendly and very decent chap. He came with his equally nice 
little wife and it was delightful to see how kind and helpful she 



145 



was to him and how much he depended upon her for advice and 
counsel. 

In the middle of one of the rehearsals he suddenly asked her 
whether she would advise him to wear his hat or not. Her reply 
is, I think, almost a classic of cockneydom. She said: 'Ow, 'av yer 
'at on yer 'ead, 'Enry. Yer made yer 'it in yer 'at.' He did so and 
as far as I can remember, 'e 'ad another 'it. 

As evidence of the infinite variety of the personages who strode 
for a brief hour upon the studio stage at Walton, let me lift a 
paragraph from the Kinemato graph Weekly of 19 15. 'Eminent people 
in Hepworth films: — Henry Ainley, Clara Butt, Hall Caine, Sir 
J. Forbes-Robertson, Martin Harvey, Violet Hopson, Lionelle 
Howard, Bonar Law, Stewart Rome, Kennerley Rumford, Sir F. 
E. Smith, Alma Taylor, Ghrissie White and Sir Charles Wyndham.' 

It was about this time that a trade paper promoted a popular 
competition to decide who was the favourite British film player. 
This was the published result of the voting: Alma Taylor, first, 
with over a fifth of the total number of votes; then, in this order, 
Elizabeth Risdon, Charlie Chaplin, Stewart Rome, Chrissie 
White, Fred Evans. 

This was in 19 15 which, be it remembered, was the second year 
of the first great World War. Griffith's Birth of a Nation was 
reported as the masterpiece of that year — which it certainly was — 
but it was also described as Charlie Chaplin's year, but there is, 
of course, no contradiction in that for they occupied entirely 
different spheres. A note which marked a most remarkable and 
important change in the politics of the film world was to the 
effect that the 'open market' was suffering severely owing to the 
coming of the 'exclusive.' 

These two terms require a little explanation for they have no 
meaning at the present time. Films were originally sold in the 
'open market' to anyone who would buy, at so much a foot, 
without any reference to quality or value of the subject. First it 
was a shilling a foot, less 33J per cent, to 'the trade.' This soon 
dropped to sixpence net, then fivepence — at which there was a 
firm but ineffectual effort to fix it — and then fourpence, at which 
it stuck for years. But it came in time to be realised that the value 
of a film was not really a factor of length alone, but primarily of 
the interest of its material. That is so entirely self-evident now that 
it is difficult to realise that several years went by before anyone 
thought of it. 



146 



The open market film, since anyone could buy it, introduced 
unlimited competition between the purchasers of any really 
popular subject, reducing its value both to the buyers and to the 
producer. The 'subject' began to matter more than the 'length.' 
Thus was born the film with subject value — the 'feature' film as 
it came to be called. And this, from its very nature, could best 
realise its value by being sold exclusively to one buyer for each 
district, or for the nation, or for the world, according to circum- 
stances. 

Now it became really worth while to concentrate upon making 
feature films which were saleable according to their entertainment 
value and not merely like so much ribbon at so much a yard. 

This was a real incentive to the making of good films and it is 
impossible to over-estimate its result for good upon the film in- 
dustry as a whole. Unfortunately, however, it also resulted in the 
introduction of perhaps the greatest evil the industry has ever 
suffered from. For it was no sudden and complete change-over. 
Some makers were selling 'exclusives,' many were still clinging to 
the open market and many more trying to serve both masters — 
superimposing a few 'features' upon their regular trade of so- 
much-a-footers. This last was the course which was almost 
inevitably forced upon me. 

But thus it came about that the middleman who had a large 
stock of small pictures upon his shelves, and bought up a big one 
to boost his trade, said in effect to his customers: 'If you want my 
big feature you must also book half a dozen of my small ones at 
the same time.' This was called 'block booking' and it transpired 
that booking dates receded further and further into the future 
until there were none to be had for eighteen months or two years 
after publication. It was what, I suppose, modern economists 
would call too many films chasing too few theatres. Anyway the 
result was that the capital sunk in the making of a big film would 
not begin to come back to the maker until about two years 
afterwards. It can hardly be wondered at that so many makers 
preferred to keep to their old policy of small pictures and quick 
returns and so helped to build up and succour the very evil which 
was bringing about their own downfall. 

Nevertheless it was reported at the end of 19 15 'the picture 
theatre in England, after seventeen months of war, is more firmly 
established than ever.' But the war years brought a large share of 
those troubles — other than the war itself — which war always 



H7 



brings to any community. A large number of picture theatre 
companies failed, though often for other reasons than those 
directly connected with the war, and tax was imposed upon 
imported films as well as upon prints and raw film-stock, and 
entertainment tax was imposed upon the theatres. This was the 
most unkindest cut of all. 

Although I have admitted by innuendo that my company was 
slow to take up the challenge of the specially expensive feature 
film made from copyright books and plays, it must not be assumed 
that we were still playing about with unimportant open market 
subjects mainly. On the contrary we had for some time been 
making lengthy and important pictures and had won great 
success with most of them. But I had always had the feeling that 
picture making was an art in itself and should depend upon its 
own original writers for its material. It was while I was waiting 
for those original writers to show up that I agreed to the making 
of such films from books as those quite successful Dickens films 
and the plays I have mentioned. 

But it was gradually brought home to me — notably by my 
friend Baynes, the man with the mackintosh and the big dog — 
that I must break away from this inexpensive material and pay 
good money for books or plays that were already successfully in 
the eye of the public. In other words, cash in on the popularity 
already secured. 

It was somewhere about the middle of the first World War — 
say 1916 — that I had occasion to produce a film in which a 
portable typewriter would be conspicuous. I suggested to the 
Remington people that in view of the publicity value, they might 
care to make me a present of one of their portable machines to be 
used in the picture. They liked the idea, agreed to the suggestion 
and sent me the typewriter. 

I used it, though not to any great extent, and then found to my 
dismay that for some reason — now entirely forgotten — I could not 
put the picture into production. So there was nothing for it but 
to take the typewriter back to Remington's. Of course I explained 
the situation and apologised and they were exceedingly nice 
about it. But they said they had no existing facilities for selling 
used machines, even so little used as this was, and in the end they 
said they quite understood the position and in the circumstances 
they would like me to keep the machine. 



148 



I have had it ever since, and if I say that its behaviour has 
always been worthy of the gracious manner of its coming to me, I 
shall not be guilty of exaggeration. 

It has only one fault; it is a shocking bad speller. 

A typical example of a good war-play was The Man Who Stayed 
At Home which ran for a long time at the old Royalty Theatre in 
Dean Street, Soho. The name part, played by Dennis Eadie, told 
of a man who was always being gibed at for not enlisting and 
going out to serve his country as every fit man should. He bore 
all this with exemplary patience which was mistaken for coward- 
ice, but it turned out in the end that he had a wireless-set 
concealed in his fireplace and was doing noble and valuable secret 
service work with it. We bought the rights in this play and made 
a good film of it, and I have always been very grateful to it for it 
was the means of introducing my greatest colleague, Henry 
Edwards, to the Walton Studios, where he worked finely and very 
successfully until the end. He was carrying a not very important 
part in this play but he did it so supremely well that I was very 
glad to be able to persuade him to join us. All his acting work was 
excellent and he very soon took on production as well, and after- 
wards started a series of productions of his own side by side with 
me. Chrissie White became the leading lady in many of his 
pictures in the same way as Alma Taylor was usually mine, but 
we changed about occasionally when the films we were making 
seemed better suited that way. 

In our screen version of The Man Who Stayed At Home which was 
produced by me, Dennis Eadie played his own part but most of 
the other parts were taken by the members of our stock -company. 
I don't think Eadie was very happy with us, which is worth 
remarking for that did not often happen. But the film was success- 
ful and helped to confirm the theory that stage plays were good 
material for us to work upon. 

Nevertheless I still clung to the belief that they were not the 
only or even necessarily the best foundation for picture-plays. It 
is an argument which has never yet been settled, for there are 
always examples bobbing up to prove or disprove it either way. 

The Pipes of Pan was founded upon a pretty fanciful little 
picture or picture postcard which was popular in the shops at the 
time. I produced the film, which was of no great importance but 
it comes to my memory now because of an ingenious trick which 



149 



I used to obtain a particular effect. The story was of the fanciful 
thought-pictures of a small boy which came to him when he 
played the pipes. One of his visions which I wanted to show, was 
of a number of fairy children playing round his heroine, the girl 
who was so kind to him and seemed to understand him so well. 
Alma Taylor was that girl, and the fairy children were supplied, 
I think, by Italia Conti. Among them was one whom I picked out 
at once as being a specially clever little dancer. She was about 
nine or ten years old and her name was Angela Baddeley! I 
wanted them to appear to be dancing on the surface of a lake. I 
fastened a little piece of very thin, optically worked and surface- 
silvered glass horizontally in front of the lens, just touching it and 
just below its optical axis. The dancing children were shown 
clearly but the grass they were really dancing on had disappeared 
and their inverted images were reflected as if in water. I hope 
this little trick will be useful to someone else some day — it was 
certainly very effective. It was very much cheaper than laying 
down a whole mirror large enough to cover the lawn and the 
reflections were softer and more pleasing. 

Helen of Four Gates, from the novel by Ethel Holdsworth, was 
another of my productions with Alma Taylor but in an entirely 
different style, for what I really wanted in this case was to capture 
the wonderful atmosphere of the story. So we all went to Haworth 
— where Emily Bronte and her sisters had lived and where she 
wrote Wuthering Heights — for it was a somewhat similar atmosphere 
that I was anxious to obtain. As soon as we left Hebden Bridge 
and began to climb the hill to Haworth we seemed to feel the 
dour, cruel environment which I wanted. Up on the moor at the 
top it was far more intense and somehow it managed to get into 
the picture as I wanted it. It was one of Alma's best bits of work 
and I was pleased with the whole job. But it was not a popular 
film. 

A better picture which gave her more scope was Tansy, a sheep- 
farming story on the Sussex Downs, written by Tickner Edwardes. 
Alma played the part of a shepherd girl and to get under the skin 
of it, she lived with a shepherd's family for some weeks and 
studied the work thoroughly. And she borrowed a sheep dog and 
brought it home with her so that he got to know her and obey her 
every word. There was much delightful pictorial photography in 
this film and here again the very atmosphere of the story really 
crept into it. 



l ¥> 



There was a curious technical incident in connection with Tansy 
which is perhaps worth recording. It was necessary for the 
purposes of the story to show the sheep-herding skill of the heroine 
and of her dog. This called, I felt, for one long scene rather than 
a number of short ones, for that would not be so convincing since 
the effect could be so easily faked. So what might have been a long 
sequence was taken in one scene of 398 feet, the equivalent in 
modern practice of 600 feet; just on seven minutes. 

It was on the Sussex Downs and a place was chosen on the top 
of one hill overlooking a broad valley and another hill opposite. 
The scene began with Tansy standing at the entrance to a pen 
and the sheep were dotted like mushrooms all over the valley and 
on the far hill side. The dog was told to collect them and off he 
went at full speed. The camera was, of course, on a stationary 
tripod stand — tracking cameras had not been invented then — but 
it could be swung around on its revolving head in any direction. 
It kept the dog in focus right away into the far distance, until the 
sheep were all rounded up and collected and driven into the pen. 

At this point at the trade show where, of course, there was no 
music or sound of any sort from the film, there was a round of 
applause from the audience, hard-boiled as most of them were. 
Geoff. Faithfull was the camera-man and for that long scene he 
did a real job of work, for to turn the camera steadily by hand for 
seven minutes and follow all the movements of dog and sheep at 
the same time was no mean effort of muscle and will. 

There is no doubt whatever that that long scene absolutely held 
the interest throughout and it is interesting to see that the same 
technique has recently been re-discovered and hailed as a com- 
plete novelty. 

I begin to be appalled at the number of these films: for though 
to recall them is interesting to me because I worked hard in them, 
I must call a halt; for they cannot be of more than slight interest 
to other people. 



151 



CHAPTER 15 

By the time we were well into the third year of the war, 19 16; in 
spite of the ever increasing difficulties which the war inevitably 
laid upon us, we did manage to produce bigger and better films 
than ever before. The Cobweb is a good example, a fine, strong and 
most interesting story from a play by Leon M. Lion and Naunton 
Davies. I had, too, as fine a cast as any producer could ask for: 
Henry Edwards, Alma Taylor, Stewart Rome, Violet Hopson and 
John MacAndrews with several others. The theme of the play is 
well suggested in something Edwards has to say: — 'Better chaos 
than submersion. There's life, there's growth, comes out of chaos. 
But in this decaying world of yours, you are being strangled. 
You're all enmeshed like a swarm of flies in a monstrous cobweb 
— Civilisation.' 

For the title of the film, The Cobweb, Geoff. Faithfull wanted to 
make an ornamental background, like those which came into 
fashion much later on. He put a number of twigs in a sort of 
frame, collected several big spiders from a garden opposite and 
left them all night. The next morning there were some lovely 
cobwebs, only needing tiny glistening dew-drops, which were 
easily provided by the fine spray from a borrowed inhaler, to 
make a perfect and most attractive title-page for the film. It 
would be the only title then, of course, for the long sheets of 
exasperating 'credits' were, happily, not invented until very much 
later. 

The time was drawing very near when I should have to lose 
Geoffrey Faithfull who worked the camera for me. Stanley left 
a month or two earlier. I do not remember how I managed, but 
I should have had no difficulty in tackling the camera myself 
and that is probably what I did. 

One of the very best of Pinero's plays, Trelawney of the Wells, 
gave me a great deal of trouble and a great deal of pleasure. The 
trouble was mostly in the getting together of the dresses and 



152 



scenery and furniture so as to be true to the period of the play, 
1836, or thereabout. It was a delightful play and I think we made 
a good film of it. Alma gave a wonderful impersonation of the 
humble actress-girl and her strange entry into a pre- Victorian 
household, with all its prejudices and inhibitions, and she made 
the most of the dramatic situations which it involved. 

The strangeness of her entry into that household was much 
accentuated, made more dramatic perhaps but certainly even 
less auspicious by the fact that she and her escort were caught in 
a tremendous downpour of rain just as they were arriving. The 
'rain,' of course, was produced artificially as it is in modern 
studios but, needless to say, we did not originate the mistake which 
nearly all modern studios perpetuate by setting the rain shower in 
brilliant sunshine. Perhaps I should not write 'needless to say' for 
that sounds rather rude, but it is a fact that with all our crudities 
we did not make obvious mistakes of that sort. Rain does some- 
times come in sunshine but only very rarely. Thunder does some- 
times sound at the same time as its flash, but only when the flash 
is within a few yards of you. Perhaps these are details which do 
not matter, but to fastidious people they are annoying and it is 
much better to be correct when you are attempting to create an 
illusion of reality. (That's why I don't like a full band accompany- 
ing a heroine when she wanders out alone into the Siberian 
Steppes or the wastes of Sahara.) 

The people who insist upon brilliant sunshine in spite of 
pouring rain have this much excuse for their defiance of the 
verities, that it is exceedingly difficult to make the artificial rain 
get itself photographed unless there is specular light to show it up. 
We had the same difficulty in Trelawney. The rain soaked the hero 
and heroine quite thoroughly and their consequent discomfort 
was sufficiently obvious, but the rain itself was invisible on the 
screen. So we resorted to a very drastic remedy. We laid the 
negative out upon a long bench, gelatine uppermost, and stroked 
it slantwise with two grades of sandpaper, fine and coarse. It was 
a truly horrible thing to have to do but it was extraordinarily 
successful. We had tried simpler things first, though even when 
milk was added to the water it wouldn't photograph like rain. 
But we had been in the film business from the beginning and we 
remembered that the very early films always showed 'rain' after 
a little while of use and we knew that that was due to surface 
scratches. There was the clue we had been looking for. 



153 



It was in 19 1 6 too, that Blanche Macintosh wrote Sowing 
the Wind from a play and this was produced by me during the 
year and met with considerable but not very conspicuous 
success. I am not very clear about it however and my memory 
keeps crouching back behind a defensive fence composed 
of the various and many troubles of the time, the difficulties of 
'keeping on, keeping on 5 in the face of the ever-diminishing staff 
and the continuingly increasing demands of the war-racked 
country. Food was difficult to come by and many things were 
unobtainable. As far as I can remember this film, with the 
somehow faintly appropriate title, was the last one of all 
for which I had the help of my camera-man, Geoff. Faithfull. 
Anyhow, both he and his brother Stanley were called up in the 
early autumn of this year and from that there was no further 
reprieve. 

This was a double loss to me, of course, and when in the 
following month Tom White was also irrevocably called in the 
same great cause, poor Henry Edwards was left as high and even 
drier than I. How we managed is nobody's business, as the saying 
is, and I doubt whether anybody can recall it now. But it is 
certain that we did manage, and we kept on turning out films 
which, by the grace of God, the people liked. 

In October my indefatigable script-writer gave me another 
scenario to be getting on with, this time called The Touch of a 
Child, which sounds rather sloppy but, as neither she nor I are 
much given to that sort of thing, it probably 'turned out,' like a 
good pudding, sufficiently solid to stand up by itself. 

It was in early October, 19 17, that my wife died — the best and 
truest wife that any man could ever have had. Three months of 
very serious illness, from which at one time there seemed to be 
some hope that she might be recovering, proved to be too much 
for her remaining strength. I was left with three small children — 
the eldest not yet thirteen. After the funeral I could think of 
nothing better to do with them than to take them down to Lul- 
worth Gove where we had often had such happy times. We got 
into a little cottage and did what we could to comfort one another. 
The eldest one, Barbara — she of Rescued by Rover — became at once 
a good companion and she and her sister have been that to me 
ever since. The sister, Margaret, aged eleven, had terribly fine 
golden hair, almost as fine as spider-web it seemed. I remember — 
I shall never forget — trying to comb it out each evening. It was 



154 



always hopelessly entangled. The boy was too small to know 
much about anything. 

One day when we four were mooching along a country lane we 
were overtaken by a big car which, with shrieking brakes, pulled 
up just in front of us and four excited people streamed out and 
ran to us. I was not at all pleased to see them. They were Alma 
and Chrissie and Kimberley and my old friend, Bill Barker, who 
had had that bright idea to * Cheer old Hep up.' In the face of that 
great kindness I had to give way and be glad. The two girls took 
the children in hand and the men took charge of me and they all 
did everything they could to make us forget. At the least they 
dulled the first sharp edge of grief, and in the end they took us 
home. 

A personality that impinged upon me with considerable force 
during the first World War was that of Temple Thurston. The 
Government appeared to have got it into their heads that the end 
of the war might be brought nearer if a man like Thurston were 
to write a number of short films with a propaganda flavour. They 
introduced me to him and we settled down to a close collaboration. 
He was tremendously keen to find out all that he possibly could 
of the possibilities and practices of film production and particu- 
larly the relationship of author to producer and where the 
influence of the one ended and the other began. Seeing that he 
was a very nice fellow and that we got on very well together, I was 
just as keen to impart my views upon the subject to him and to 
discuss with him what I thought the function of the producer 
should be. 

He practically lived in my studio nearly all day when I was at 
work and came home with me in the evening to continue our long 
talks upon every subject under the sun, but particularly films. He 
came to live at Walton so as to be on the spot but he had previ- 
ously had rooms in London in Adelphi Terrace on the Thames 
Embankment. One evening when I went to see him there I told 
him how I had admired a view of the Lot's Road power station in 
the gloaming, its four tall chimneys dark against the setting sun- 
light, the brilliant effect of the water and the one dark tug-boat 
with its black smoke and its bright red port light, its hull churning 
up the smooth water as it came down the stream towards me. 

When I went to see him again he showed me with pride how 
he had painted this scene in oils from my description. I was 
horrified to find that he had painted the tug-boat's port light 



155 



green instead of red! He said, 'What does it matter? I think green 
looks better.' 

It somehow came about that I had occasion, at his request, I 
imagine, to put on paper my ideas about the Author vis-a-vis the 
Producer, and as those ideas do not seem to have altered since 
then, and may perhaps be interesting to others, I will quote my 
letter. This is what I wrote: — 

'It seems to me that there is no real line of demarcation or 
place where it can be said: here the author's work ends and here 
the producer's begins .... I do very deeply sympathise with you 
in your very keen desire to keep the development of the story in 
your hands throughout. I think I can quite understand how 
painful it must be, after having brought a child into the world, to 
hand it over to a foster parent to be brought up and reared, and 
however great one's faith might be in that foster parent, the 
wrench would be painful and the bringing up could never be 
perfectly satisfactory to the real creator. But what are you to do 
if you are not prepared to do the wet-nursing? You must let 
somebody else do it or let the baby starve. 

'It seems to me that the author has an absolute and undeniable 
right to put as many stage directions in the scenario as he thinks 
fit — he may, if he likes, give complete drawings and sketches of 
the materials to be used for every dress which is worn; in the same 
way there may be working plans for every scene, and I have 
heard of authors in America who have selected the exact pitch of 
every exterior view and written the particulars in the scenario. 

'I hold that everything which is in the scenario must be adhered 
to by the producer and that he accepts the scenario on these terms. 
Of course, he can refuse it if he likes, but if he accepts it, he must 
either produce it as it is given to him or obtain the author's 
permission to make alterations. But if the author does not put 
these particulars in he has not the right, it seems to me, to come 
along afterwards and demand to see the dresses which have been 
selected or the people which have been chosen for the parts, or 
the scenery which has been prepared. It seems to me that he must 
either do these things himself or leave the other fellow to do them. 
The author has a perfect right to insist upon certain people 
playing the various parts; if he does so, the script comes to the 
producer with that much load upon it, and it is then up to the 
producer either to accept it or refuse it as it stands. The same with 
the dresses, the scenery and everything else. Take for instance 



156 



your script upon which I am working now; the stage directions 
for the first scene read as follows: "A scene in the street of a Belgian 
town. It is fruit and flower-market day; the stalls are overflowing; 
people are lounging about and drinking outside a cafe." You know 
what I am doing for that, for you were there when the scene was 
taken. 

'If you had been willing to do all that I did, so much the 
better for me, but as you did not, I should not have felt, and I do 
not think you would either, that you would have had the right to 
come along and make alterations afterwards. 

'To try and put it more briefly — it seems to me that the author 
may go just as far as he likes, but where he stops he must let the 
other fellow carry on without claiming the right to vary. When the 
author has finished the producer begins. He takes what the author 
has written, and by the act of accepting it binds himself to adhere 
faithfully to it except that he may make such minor alterations as 
do not affect the sequence of the story, the characterisation or 
the atmosphere.' 

I am greatly indebted to Temple Thurston for a considerable 
broadening of my own ideas and for long, profitable and pleasant 
conversations. We worked together happily and smoothly for a 
long time. Possibly we worked a little too closely and too con- 
tinuously. We may have exhausted our mutual resources: got a 
little tired of each other. I had not been used to having anyone 
beside me in the studio when I was working — had always turned 
out anyone not actually engaged in the scene. Any whispered 
commentary behind me, any suspicion of what might be a criti- 
cism, was enough to put me off my stroke, and although 
there was no suggestion of anything of that sort from Thurston, 
his mere presence may have unconsciously irked me a little in 
the end. 

But before we drifted apart we had had the advantage — or 
perhaps I should say / had had the advantage, for it is unlikely 
that he gained as much benefit from it as I did — of a great deal 
of happy and fruitful collaboration. The stories he wrote for the 
Government war-films were full of inspiration for me as well as 
being, I suppose, valuable propaganda. His ideas did not always 
work out as we both hoped they would, but that is perhaps only 
natural for we were working in an atmosphere which was new to 
us. At one time he enunciated the interesting theory that tragedy, 
for instance, might be equally tragic at all sorts of different levels. 



157 



A child's desperate anguish over a broken doll is just as poignant 
while it lasts as a mother's grief for a dying child. 

So he visualised an incident in overrun Belgium when the 
Germans strode across it smashing and killing everything in their 
path. A poor old woman, serene and happy, though there was 
nothing in her life to live for but her plot of flower garden, radiant 
just then with a glorious show of hyacinths and spring flowers of 
all descriptions. This garden by a corner cottage was in the path 
of a company of soldiers who could just as easily have passed round 
it. We showed only their heavy feet trampling all those lovely 
flowers into the dust. It tore at the heart-strings of all the people 
in the studio who had gardens and allotments of their own, but 
no one thought it really tragic on the screen. 

We had better success however in a much more ambitious 
subject which required the building up of a corner of a Belgian 
town in a meadow which we had recently rented for another 
purpose. This was a very effective set comprising some cottages, 
two or three small shops and the west-end of one of those large 
churches which in Belgium seem so completely out of proportion 
to the little towns or villages which they dominate. It took the 
best endeavours of our designers and all our carpenters and stage- 
hands to erect and paint it and it must, one way and another, have 
occupied much of my own time. Yet the story which it enshrined 
has utterly faded from my mind, while I remember the old lady's 
flower garden distinctly. Perhaps there was something in Thurs- 
ton's idea of deep suffering in low-level tragedy. 

He was a strangely lovable unlovely character: very kind, very 
clever, very selfish. He had a marvellously good and patient wife 
— patience in any woman in her position would have been a 
marvel, for he must have been dreadfully difficult to live with, 
though he had great charm. He would write all day — when he 
wasn't discussing films with me — and then in the evening he 
liked to collect his family and friends around him and read his 
morning's work over to them. This was by no means an ordeal for 
those who listened, for he read delightfully and well. He had a 
soft and pleasant voice and as we sat in silence round the fireside, 
the phrases he had nurtured and loved all day came easily and 
attractively over to us. I suppose his books are out of fashion now, 
for that is the fate of modern writers in an age when far too many 
books are written and the consequently small editions soon are 
out of print and crowded off the shelves and out of libraries. His 



158 



one-time film-colleague shares similar oblivion but we both had 
a good time while it lasted. 

I mentioned just now a meadow which we had recently rented. 
This was in Halliford on the other side of the river from Walton 
and was for the purpose of building a large portion of old London 
for the staging of Barnaby Rudge. This, the latest of Thomas 
Bentley's efforts in Dickens-land on our account, was his largest 
and best, for the story, as everyone knows, was in the time of the 
Gordon riots and involved nor merely a great number of different 
views of the London of the period, but these must be substantial 
enough to be both convincing in their reality, and strong enough 
to withstand the rough treatment which must hang upon scenes 
of disorder and struggle. Part of the ambitious set-up was a replica 
of old Newgate prison which in the story is destroyed by fire, that 
the prisoners may be rescued. 

The poor, half-witted boy, Barnaby, around whose adventures 
the story ranges, was beautifully played by Tom Powers who both 
looked and acted the part to perfection. He was well supported by 
the rest of the company which absorbed, for the time being, nearly 
all our stock of actors including Chrissie White, Violet Hopson, 
Henry Vibart, L.Howard, MacAndrews, Buss, Royston, Felton and 
Stewart Rome. Like all the stories of Charles Dickens this is far 
too complicated to tell clearly in any reasonable length, and it 
is all to the credit of the producer that he managed to make it 
understandable within the limits of a film of not undue extent. 

Barnaby Rudge has, I am sorry to say, like several other films in 
the course of this book, got itself somewhat misplaced in chrono- 
logical order. It should have come before mention of Temple 
Thurston who only came to Walton towards the end of the war, 
while 'Barnaby' was filmed near its beginning. It does not matter 
very much, except that I like to be fairly accurate if I can. 

I have quoted a considerable number of films made in that 
war-time, but for the most part only those which were of my own 
individual production, because, as I have mentioned before, this 
is a book about me, not about the film industry, which does not 
come into it except in so far as I have had to do with it. For 
instance, I have scarcely mentioned Henry Edwards' work. But 
he was producing side by side with me all through the war years 
and for some time afterwards and it would be stupid to suggest 
that his work was not at least as good as mine both in quantity 
as well as quality. Other of our producers were working hard and 



159 



successfully too, although we certainly did for a time lose some of 
our most important men. The times were undoubtedly difficult 
and the war's need of men could not and should not be disputed. 
But those of us who for age or other infirmity 'stayed at home' were 
glad to feel that what we were doing here was contributing its tiny 
bit to the spirit and well-being of hard- worked Britain. 

But in spite of what I have just said about Henry Edwards — 
Tedwards, he was always called for short and for affection — I 
must mention one of his films which was a most valiant effort to 
do something which, in the doing, proved itself to be almost, but 
not quite an impossibility. He set out to make a full-length silent 
film without any titles, either of description or of conversation. 
One only it had, and that was its name at the beginning: Lily in 
the Alley. It was very nearly as successful as it deserved to be, and 
it would have succeeded altogether, I think, if he and we and all 
other producers had not for many years been telling people, in 
titles and other devices, exactly what they were to think and 
understand and believe. This continual doping had so dulled the 
intellects of the audiences that they never sit up and try to under- 
stand. Nothing is left to the imagination; everything is handed to 
them on a plate, ready cooked and digested so that there is 
nothing whatever to do but just swallow it whole. It is much the 
same now, for though sound does sometimes complicate the plot 
a little, it is more often used to clarify it. 

It is a little difficult to say what effect the first World War had 
upon the British film industry. It certainly brought us many 
difficulties at the time but I doubt whether it had any real or 
lasting effect. I have already told of the difficulties caused by the 
calling up of the youngsters and of the way we met that trouble, 
but it was not very long before the more experienced people were 
also required for more serious work than ours. Our clever French 
technician, Gaston Quiribet, left two days before the war started. 
Others were called up from time to time and then released again 
to go on helping us a little longer, though the tribunals were 
naturally unsympathetic to our appeals for exemption. One 
irascible colonel said, 'Picture theatres are an unnecessary 
luxury and the public will benefit by their closing.' Both Kimber- 
ley and I, ineligible for active service, were in the Volunteers which 
took up a lot of our time, and practically all our workers drained 
away in the end. But we managed. 

The industry as a whole kept its flag flying. The Hep worth 



1 60 




Stewart Rome, Warwick Buckland and Violet Hopson in 'The Chimes' 




Stewart Rome in 'Barnaby Ridge* 



players frequently appeared in Film Tags t snappy little propa- 
ganda films which I made for the Government, rather on the lines 
of the somewhat ineffective Food Flashes which I made for the 
later war (it doesn't seem quite safe to say the last war). The long 
litigation by the Federal Government of America against the 
Motion Picture Patents Company, the General Film Company 
and other defendants (Anti-Trust Law) whose beginning in 1909 
caused so much trouble at the time, ended in favour of the 
Government on October 16th, 19 15. 

In the same year our manager, C. Parfrey, left us and later 
joined the Kinematograph Trading Company, and Lewin Fitz- 
hamon also drifted away. Yet 19 15 was described as the beginning 
of the Hepworth-Pinero boom. Our Barnaby Rudge was trade 
shown at the Alhambra by the purchasers, the Kine Trading 
Company, and 'three thousand footers' were described as the rage 
of England, America and Italy. 

One of the first practical suggestions for a trade benevolent fund 
was mooted but did not bear fruit until later. This is a most 
important institution because, from its very nature, the film trade 
is certain to have a large number of 'left-overs' who early become 
too old to earn their living in the manner to which they were 
accustomed. 

Griffith's very fine Birth of a Nation, which had been so successful 
at the Scala Theatre, was transferred to the Theatre Royal, Drury 
Lane, but it failed to attract large audiences in its new abode. I 
paid a courtesy visit to Mr. Griffith at his office there, but although 
there were chairs about he kept me standing all the time I was 
there with him. But that wasn't very long. His Macbeth, put on at 
His Majesty's Theatre in June, only remained there a week. 

The year 191 7 appears to have been a momentous one for 
the film industry, for almost immediately we come upon the 
remark that 'our producers now compare favourably with the 
Americans,' which I am afraid is one of those thoughts which 
are fathered so prolifically by wishes. But the Government of the 
day began to realise the value of the screen and its popular 
influence, and Colonel Buchan, of the Department of Information, 
invited the Trade Council to assist in Government propaganda. 

This was turning over a new leaf, for the industry had been very 
much vilified one way and another. Then the National Council 
of Public Morals held a commission to take evidence for and 
against the kinema. After a long period it produced a refutation 



161 



of the reckless charges that had been hurled against the industry — 
its complete vindication in fact. 

The previous year's entertainment tax had hit the trade hard 
indeed but it was now proposed to increase it. That horrid idea 
was postponed till the autumn but that was the best that could be 
done with it. The effect of the tax was in many cases to shift the 
patrons into cheaper seats, so the exhibitor was hit, without 
benefit to the treasury. 

The inception of a trade employment bureau to provide 
employment for disabled soldiers, who were now beginning to 
come back in increasing numbers, was due to the initiative of 
Paul Kimberley. It was a fine idea and a considerable number of 
officers and men were successfully trained in various branches of 
the trade and found employment suited to the needs, but the lay 
press was still ignoring the industry, as though they feared to look 
at it lest it should turn out to be a rival. W. G. Faulkner's notes 
in the Evening News were practically the only exception. He noted, 
among many other things, that Alma Taylor had won through 
from tiny parts, boys, tomboy girls, and all sorts of things, to 
leading player in such important films as Pinero's Iris for instance, 
and now had widespread popularity. 

Henry Edwards' first big part was Gabriel Oak in Thomas 
Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Larry Trimble had seen 
him first as the waiter in The Man Who Stayed at Home and secured 
him. He rejoined the Hepworth Company when Trimble and the 
Turner Films returned to America. Chrissie White, a contem- 
porary of Alma Taylor and fellow conspirator in the Tilly the 
Tomboy series of most popular films, was also growing up to big 
and important things. Victor Montenore, a resident scenario 
writer for Hepworth films, a fine musician and a delightful 
personality, a gentle almost ethereal being, most obviously and 
utterly unsuitable for a soldier in any possible capacity, was 
ruthlessly called up, nevertheless, and he was dead within a week 
of going into camp. 

I wonder whether I am managing to get over any sense of my 
great feeling of gratitude to all the fine people who worked with 
me so loyally and for so long. I do not know how to put it into 
words for something of the same sort is so often said without any 
real meaning behind it. I can only hope that some sense of my 
real indebtedness may seep through my words although they are 
applied to other things. 



162 



W. D. Griffith's Intolerance, with its extraordinarily advanced 
technique, was enthusiastically received at Drury Lane Theatre 
in April, and in March, Hamilton Fyfe, in an article in the Daily 
Mail, claimed Charlie Chaplin as a national asset. He was in 
danger of being claimed by America. Mary Pickford, the 'World's 
Sweetheart,' announced the formation of her own company for 
the production of films. 

The second half of 19 17 saw the launching of several fairly 
important films, both of mine and Edwards', but I am not going 
to risk the boredom of giving their names. It was also notable for 
the rapid growth of the trade unions in the industry. Does that 
sound like a knell? It had no effect whatever upon me or mine, 
for our sands were running out already, and so I could write about 
it without rancour if I wished to do so. But it is no part of the job 
I have set myself, to pass judgment upon the greed and avarice 
of people, the reckless extravagance, the utter waste of time and 
money and the senseless disregard of the difference between 
essentials and mere ostentation, which have brought a great 
industry to the very verge of ruin. 

In June, 19 18, there was the first definite suggestion of the Trade 
Benevolent Fund, national and covering all sections of the 
industry and further developed at a Cinematograph Exhibitors' 
Association conference in July, when a substantial sum was 
subscribed for a nucleus. Paul Kimberley joined the Hepworth 
Company as general manager in August, and Tares and The 
Refugee, two of our propaganda films written by Temple Thurston, 
were trade shown by us in September when we entertained the 
trade press and some friends at luncheon, and, by October, the 
Trade Benevolent Fund was definitely in existence. 

In that month I directed Broken in the Wars and the right 
Honourable John Hodge, the Minister of Pensions, appeared in it. 
In November Gerald Ames joined the company. But in the films 
of 19 18 there were very few of English make and only about half 
a dozen of them were from the Hepworth studios. Perhaps that 
is understandable, for this was the last year of the Great War. 



163 



CHAPTER 16 

Suddenly, after hope so often postponed that it seemed nearly 
dead, there was a strange uncanny sound in the air — at first a 
distant wailing as though a million people drew a half-sobbing 
breath — a sound growing momentarily louder, spreading on 
every side, becoming a cry, a song, a shout! Then there was no 
mistaking the throbbing joy as it burst upon us everywhere. It 
was the end of the War! Release! The end of the pent-up fear and 
misery of war. Peace. We were Free! I was free to go my ways — no 
longer trammelled at every turn; free to photograph what and 
where I liked! Free at last to realise my life's ambition — free to 
buy a boat and go sailing! 

For I had suddenly realised that if I did not do that at once, it 
would be too late — sailing is not a job for an old man. And how 
I did want to get on the water and have room to move! There 
has been no room on the land for many years — never will be any 
room on the roads again. I wanted to sail right away from every- 
thing and everybody; out of sight of everything except sea and 
sky. That is what it means to be free. 

So every week-end I diligently searched all the ship-yards 
within reasonable reach and at last I found what I wanted at 
Cowes, Isle of Wight. She had been laid up for four years, of 
course, but I couldn't wait for an expert examination. She had a 
two-cylinder, two-stroke engine which, as soon as I saw it, I 
decided to replace. She was a ketch of eleven tons and her name 
was Bluebird. She seemed sound and fairly complete and my heart 
went out to her. I bought her right away for £500. 

The snug little village of Hamble on the river of that name, 
leading into Southampton Water, offered a convenient mooring, 
and then there arose the question of bringing Bluebird across the 
Solent to what was to be her home town. Kimberley said he 
would like to come and help (knowing even less about sailing than 
I did), and then his wife said she would like to come too. She was 



164 



a kind and happy woman so there was no objection to that, and 
when she wanted to bring Alma to balance up the party there was, 
for a similar reason, still no objection. 

It was the early afternoon of Boxing Day of 191 8 when we went 
aboard, wonderfully warm, slightly misty and practically no wind. 
We pushed the boat out of her shed and a man in a dinghy took 
us in tow to get clear of the very crowded anchorage. We started 
up the engine, gear out of course, but he was in a blue funk lest 
we should run him down; then we sailed under our own steam to 




the mouth of the river where I decided to up-sail and save petrol. 
Alma was steering when, with the main-sail up, I let go the 
topping -lift and dropped the heavy boom on her head. The main- 
sail was taking practically all the weight but she got a nasty knock. 
Lucky that it was no worse. 

The slight mist hid the opposite shore so I set a course by 
compass to stand clear to the westward of the Brambles — I still 
had the famous chart-book. After a while the breeze fell lighter 
and we started up the engine again, but after a couple of miles it 
burst its rusty exhaust-box and smothered us with evil-smelling 
smoke. The ladies began to murmur a little at that but there was 
no help for it that we could see. Then the little engine, with 



165 



unexpected tact, came to a sudden stop and settled the matter 
and a quick glance revealed the secret. The poor little thing, 
ashamed of the horrid behaviour of her silencer, had snapped her 
half-time shaft in two and brought her own career to an end. 

Luckily the last of the flood-tide was setting us in the right 
direction and should draw us into Southampton Water and even 
perhaps into Hamble river, if only there were air enough to give us 
steerage way. We rounded Calshot, drew slowly into the Water, 
and spotted the light of the Hamble buoy in the gathering gloom. 
I knew we had to leave the buoy to port and we still had air 
enough to steer. But like all these rivers the entrance is marked by 
booms, poles stuck up in the mud on either side of the fairway. 
At low tide you can see exactly what they mean and how the 
river winds, but when the mud is covered I'll be hanged if you 
can be so sure. The first boom was a toss-up — and I lost the toss. 
I took the wrong side of the boom and we ran right up on the still 
invisible mud. There was no engine to ease us off. We were there for 
the night! The women refused to believe it, said it was all non- 
sense and we must do something about it at once. But they had to 
take it, for it was dark and we were miles from anywhere, with 
deep mud all round us. Also there was nothing to eat or drink. 
We all settled down in the cabin and lighted the lamp. 

Then Kim and I took a good look at the engine. The half-time 
shaft, true to its name, had snapped itself neatly in half. It 
normally controls the timing of the ignition so its failure put a 
stop to everything. We took it out and saw that if we could file a 
deep flat on each half we could splice it together. By extraordinary 
luck (no one would ever believe such a thing in a film) there 
happened to be a file on board. Never did prisoners work harder 
at their bars than we did on that shaft. Between two and three in 
the morning we finished the job and then we could run the engine, 
but we were high out of the water and it would be four hours or 
more before it would be light, or we afloat. 

' Came the Dawn.' Also the water. We steamed slowly and 

with much smoke and smell up to our mooring and went ashore. 
And while we looked for what we hoped would prove a 'breakfast' 
shop of which I knew, we joyfully sang our theme song: — 

'We're four jolly sailormen, just up from the sea 



There's Alma, Paul Kimberley, his missus, and me.' 
We found the shop: it did serve breakfasts, but if black looks 

1 66 



could kill, we four would have dropped stone dead on the oil- 
cloth. Brokenly we explained that we had been marooned all 
night on an engine-broken yacht. Heads were tossed so high at 
that that it was a wonder they didn't come off altogether. Never 
had vile suspicion so clearly been expressed in silence. Nothing 
but our ravenous hunger could have kept us suppliant there. At 
last these virtuous gorgons yielded enough to perceive that, deep 
in sin as we might be, they need not demand our death by 
starvation at their door, and reluctantly they served breakfast. 
The joyful avidity with which we consumed it must have been a 
shock to these sinless sisters who were waiting to see us choke. 

But even sailing must not be allowed to interfere with films. 
The Christmas holidays were practically over and we all arrived 
at our homes before lunch time that day. And with the dawning 
of 19 19, with the lifting of the dreadful load of war from our 
minds and bodies, a load which seemed even heavier in retrospect 
than it did in reality, we could, breathing freely once more, settle 
down to full production again. We were still a little crippled by 
the absence of those men who had been left to us, it is true, longer 
than we had dared to hope because we were deemed to be doing 
work of some slight national importance, but we did not know 
when we could expect them back at work. 

However, they began to return fairly early. Tom White was 
the first — of course, he would be — and he was a very valuable 
re-recruit. He says it was an accident but I have my own opinion 
about that. It was in January and he found himself unloaded in 
the snow with a lot of other fellows, going to some place for 
further duties. He went up to a sergeant who asked him where he 
belonged. He gave the sergeant ten shillings and told him. 'No 
you don't,' the sergeant said, 'you belong over there.' So he went 
over there, and joined a little group, who were almost immediately 
demobbed! That's the sort of chap he was. He is general manager 
of Pinewood Studios now. 

The Hep worth Manufacturing Company Ltd. were to be found 
at 2, Denman Street, Piccadilly, with myself as managing director 
and Paul Kimberley as general manager, and its greatest artistic 
strength lay in Chrissie White, Alma Taylor and Henry Edwards. 

In a review of the year 19 19 my good friend G. A. Atkinson 
speaks of a general feeling at the beginning of the year that 
'England would never be the same again' which, of course, 
turned out to be very much truer than he thought: wars do have 



167 



that effect upon us. But there was a gradual recovery and a sense 
of profound thankfulness that the war was 'really over/ The 
industry had enormously increased its prestige with the public, 
parliament and the press. It had played no small part in tranquilli- 
sing things at home and inspiring national 'will to victory,' and 
that was earnestly acknowledged by the Prime Minister. 

In the railway strike of that year all sides discovered the 
possibilities of mutual aid and it was generally felt that railways 
were undesirable as a means of film transport from the makers to 
the theatres, although the total let-downs during the strike were 
probably under five per cent. In December, 19 19, Will Barker 
announced his retirement from the industry after twenty-two 
years' work, and Jack Smith became managing director of Barker 
Motion Photography. 

In February Stewart Rome — who had left us to join the forces 
— gave out the announcement that he would join the Broadwest 
stock-company on his demobilisation, and the London Film 
Company, who had suspended operations because nearly all their 
staff had been called up, recommenced producing on an elaborate 
scale. In March Violet Hopson — another of our early players — 
proposed to head a company of her own for film production. In 
April, 19 19, Hepworth Picture Plays Ltd. was formed, with a 
capital of £100,000. 

Eileen Dennes joined the Hepworth stock-company in April 
and a very staunch and useful little lady she was from then to the 
end, and Leslie Henson 'succumbed to the lure of the screen.' 
Block booking was becoming more and more difficult in its effects 
but serious attempts to solve the problem were beginning to show 
signs of hopefulness. The agitation for state censorship of films 
raised its silly head over and over again, but under the skilled 
generalship of J. Brooke- Wilkinson the clearly efficient censorship 
imposed by the trade itself was demonstrated to be quite satis- 
factory and it persisted as it deserved to do, and it still persists. 

Hepworth Picture Plays Ltd. made an issue on November 1st of 
£2,500 debentures, part of a series already registered, and again in 
December, 1920, of £10,000 similar debentures. It will I think 
be obvious that underneath the record of these things there must 
have been the heave and throb of big difficulties; a feeling of 
premonition of heavy trouble in store for us. There was a 
pressure in the air which we did not understand and we worked 
on as best we could in spite of it. 



168 



The City of Beautiful Nonsense was by a long way the most 
popular book of all that Temple Thurston wrote. I had read a 
great many of his books but this was the first one that I came upon 
that I did not really like. That is not a condemnation of the work 
however. It probably was of the reader. But among its very 
numerous admirers was Henry Edwards who now made an 
excellent film of it and evidently secured a faithful rendering of 
its essential quality, for it was rapturously received by the great 
host of the admirers of the book. 

In August, 19 19, Stanley Faithfull, just back from the war, was 
going for a short holiday in Devonshire before coming back to me 
to take up his work again where he had left it two years before. 
On the platform of Templecombe Station where he had to change 
he, by most remarkable chance, met his brother Geoffrey, also 
back from the war but on his way to camp to await demobilisation. 
When Stanley had finished his holiday and returned to Walton 
he organised the growing importance of the 'still' picture depart- 
ment, which included enlargements and all sorts of direct photo- 
graphic work, and made a very good job indeed of this valuable 
side-line. 

It was in that same month that Blanche Macintosh wrote the 
script for Phillips Oppenheim's The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest 
Bliss from which Henry Edwards made a very successful series of 
short films, afterwards combined into one of 'feature length.' 
This was the story which, a little later on, got us into the law 
court with that peculiar action I dealt with earlier in this book. 

The Forest on the Hill was the first post-war film to have the 
benefit of the full staff again with all its war-worn veterans back 
in their old places. It was great to have them back and to know 
that the war had ended all wars and never again would the 
glorious company of film-makers be interrupted in their important 
work by the strife of nations: that was what we thought at the time. 
It was partly that feeling then, I expect, but chiefly the sheer 
beauty of the story and the lovely country in which it was laid, 
that made The Forest such a very enjoyable thing to do. 

The story was by Eden Phillpotts who invited me to stay at his 
house at Babbacombe near Torquay, so that he could tell me all 
about the places in which he had laid his story. For Phillpotts, in 
this case at all events, had adopted Dickens' habit of using actual 
and existing sites among which to weave his story. He showed me 
the Hanging- Wood which was his Forest-on-the-Hill; the most 



169 



delightful village of Ilsington, on the border of Dartmoor, the 
deserted copper-mine which had such dramatic influence in the 
tale, and the different aspects of the wonderful moor which has 
so often figured in his yarns. No wonder the making of the picture 
in such surroundings and with such an introduction was a delight 
to me, and I think all my crew were equally happy. And what a 
crew it was! That good scout, Jimmy Carew, with Alma Taylor, 
Gerald Ames, Gwynne Herbert, Eileen Dennes (new to us then 
but a great find), MacAndrews and Lionelle Howard. And 
glorious weather and the whole of Dartmoor to play about on! 

Sheba, the script for which was prepared for me by Blanche 
Macintosh, was principally noticeable for the fact that it was the 
first film I produced with Ronald Colman acting in it. His was 
an unknown name in those days and I, knowing nothing of his 
ability, cast him for a part of no great importance. There was, 
consequently, nothing very distinguished in his acting, for the 
part did not give him much opportunity and I don't think he had 
ever been in a film before. All the same I did take sufficient note 
of him to keep him in mind for another and better part as soon as 
there was an opportunity. I also noted that he appeared to have 
some slight awkwardness which prevented him from walking 
really naturally in the film. It may have been merely temporary 
or he must have overcome it, for I have not noticed it in any of 
his films which I have seen since. I must have thought well of him 
for I remember inviting him to join our company, but he said 
that he was determined to go to America. I do not suppose he has 
ever regretted that determination, but I have — often. 

Another script from the same writer and at about the same date 
was Once Aboard the Lugger which was produced by Gerald Ames 
in collaboration with our clever French colleague, Gaston 
Quiribet, happily released from the war and back in our company 
after more than four years. He was in some kind of reserve in the 
French army and rushed over to France the moment the war was 
imminent. I had feared, of course, that we might never see him 
again, and I was mighty glad to welcome him back, as was 
everyone else in the studio and laboratories. He is now in the 
Kodak Company in Paris and when I saw him the other day he 
looked well and very happy. 

The last important film of this year, so far as I personally was 
concerned, was Phillips Oppenheim's Anna the Adventuress, which 
was trade shown in the beginning of the following February, that 



170 



is, 1920. This was a very interesting and attractive story of two 
girls, identical twins I suppose they were, who were so exactly 
alike that they could only be told apart by their clothing and their 
entirely different methods of doing their hair and so on. It 
happened that in the beginning one of them became rich and 
opulent while the other remained in the same social scale or even 
became poorer. The difference in their opportunities which is the 
natural result of these conditions is the main theme of the film. 
The difficulty from the producer's point of view is to show that 
difference while at the same time preserving the essential identity 
of their innate appearance. 

When that impudent and unmoral minx, that 'handmaid of 
the Art' of cinematography, called 'the Vivaphone' for the sake of 
euphony, came to its inglorious end at the murdering hands of 
the ice-cream girls who would not put the needle on properly, it 
had a more worthy re-birth in a sphere of actual utility. For it was, 
in another shape, used to make sure of the synchronism between 
the two halves in various forms of the trick of double-photography. 

There is one form of double-photography which is so called, 
although it does not really come within the meaning of the term. 
In The Pipes of Pan, I told of it as a reflection of figures who 
appeared to be dancing on the surface of a lake. In another 
instance, a semi-transparent mirror reflects the image of a 'ghost' 
off-stage, apparently into the midst of the 'live' actors in the main 
scene; but in both these cases the photography is simultaneous 
and no difficulty of synchronism arises. But real double-photo- 
graphy is that device by which one actor plays two parts in one 
scene. A shutter is fixed in front of the camera so as to hide one 
half of the scene while the other half is taken. Then the shutter is 
changed over to the other half and the actor, probably disguised 
as a different person altogether, crosses to the other side of the 
scene and plays the appropriate action to the now non-existent 
person he has previously portrayed. It is very difficult to time it 
exactly enough to be at all convincing. 

To overcome this difficulty, and to enable an actor in one half 
of a scene to remember at any given moment exactly what he was 
doing in the other half at that moment, I hit upon an ingenious 
idea which worked perfectly. I got hold of an old-fashioned 
phonograph, not a gramophone, which had a wax cylinder 
instead of a disc. By speaking into the funnel of the instrument 
you could make a record which could be 'played back' as often 



171 



as you wished. This phonograph was geared to the camera so 
that the film was kept in exact correspondence with the wax 
cylinder. I used this arrangement first in my picture of Anna the 
Adventuress, which as I said was a story of twin sisters, one very 
rich and not very good and the other very good and not rich at 
all. Alma Taylor played both the parts and, as she had to change 
her appearance entirely when she changed from one to the other, 
she had plenty of time to forget the details of the work she had 
already done. 

There were several of these double -photography scenes in the 
film but I need only describe one of them as the procedure was 
much the same in all. In the one I have in mind the line dividing 
the two halves was not vertical but ran diagonally from the top 
left-hand corner to the bottom right. It was, of course, completely 
invisible in the finished picture. It was a bedroom scene and the 
rich girl was perched up on the bed, dealing out some of her 
discarded clothing to her poorer sister seated on the floor beside 
her. I wanted her to toss these clothes to her sister who would 
catch them and lay them in a little heap at her feet. Obviously, 
very accurate timing was essential. 

When all that the two girls had to do was understood by one, 
we started to take the scene. While the camera was running, all 
my directions shouted to the girl on the bed were recorded by 
the phonograph, and as soon as the scene was finished she ran 
away to change. While she was away the camera was carefully 
turned backwards until the counter registered 'nought* and the 
actual first inch of the film was in position behind the lens — 
which, of course, had been covered meanwhile. 

The wax record, being close-geared to the camera, was automati- 
cally reversed also, and carefully checked to see that the needle was 
now in the same exact position as at the start; and the dividing 
shutter in front of the lens was thrown over to the second position. 
Then Alma came back and took up her place at the foot of the 
bed. The camera was started up and she heard the phonograph 
shout back at her the exact instructions I had given her before, 
something like this : — 'There are a lot of things here I don't want 
— I shall never wear them again. Look at this dress; it is quite out 
of date now. It's the very thing for you. Here take it and put it 
with the others. Catch.' She had in the previous take thrown the 
dress on the word 'Catch.' Now a 'stand-in' girl, sitting on the 
bed and of course invisible, threw the same dress to her exactly 



172 



on the word, and she caught it at the right moment. The result 
was a very clean job of work and the deception was uncannily 
convincing. 

All the other double scenes in the film were done in the same 
way. Even when it was only a case of the two girls standing up 
and arguing with each other it was far easier to play the parts 
when every word was audible; and the finished picture was so 
much like actual reality that it was difficult to believe that the 
parts were both played by the same actress. I hope I have managed 
to make this clear. It is not easy to explain though it was quite 
easy to do. 

This method of double exposure with divided frame is used by 
many other people, though I haven't heard of a phonograph 
being employed with it, but I thought I had 'invented' it when I 
was twelve years old and photographed a school-friend playing 
cards with himself in a garden. It showed no trace of a line 
between the two halves. Up till then the same thing had been done 
without a sliding shutter but with a black background instead, 
and that, of course, could not show any line for there was none to 
show. Whether I 'invented' it or not, it was a tremendous im- 
provement on the black background method and is always used 
now when the effect is required. And of course, the already 
existing 'sound-track' is used to maintain synchronism instead of 
the more clumsy phonograph. 

This trick must not be confused with the one used in photo- 
graphing 'ghosts' like that of Hamlet's father. In that case there 
was no shutter before the lens: the whole scene was taken twice 
on the same film, with half the proper exposure each time. That 
is to say, suppose the estimated correct exposure was F/5.6, the 
scene would be taken at F/8, wound backwards and then taken 
again at F/8. The figure walked through one 'take,' but the other 
was of the background and rocks only. So these showed vaguely 
through the figure and made it appear partially transparent. 

Anna the Adventuress was the second film of mine in which 
Ronald Colman had a part — a bigger one this time, and he made 
me still more sorry that he was so set upon going to America. In 
fact the whole cast was a very strong one and included, besides 
Colman, Alma Taylor, as both Anna and Annabel, James Carew, 
Gwynne Herbert, Jean Cadell, Christine Rayner and Gerald 
Ames. 



173 



CHAPTER 17 

Perhaps the most completely successful picture I ever made was 
Alps Button in 192 1, from a very delightfully fantastic story by 
W. A. Darlington, of the Daily Telegraph. I cannot resist quoting 
the foreword which he wrote and signed for us to put at the 
beginning of our trade show 'synopsis' : 

'During the making of this film-version of Alf's Button it has 
been brought home to me most forcibly how much an author can 
owe to his producer. To write "slaves in marvellous oriental 
draperies" cost me little effort, no special knowledge, and a 
minute quantity of ink. For Mr. Hep worth to attain the same 
effect in his own medium of expression cost him endless trouble 
and careful research — to say nothing of a sordid detail such as 
expense. Many times while the work was in progress did Mr. 
Hepworth refer in tones half-humorous, half-tragic, to my over 
exuberant imagination; but I can only say that my warmest 
thanks are due to him for the result of his labours. He has accom- 
plished the almost impossible feat of making a humorist laugh at 
his own characters. If any of my readers enjoyed my book as I 
enjoyed my first sight of Mr. Hepworth's film, I am more than 
satisfied.' 

Blanche Macintosh as scenario writer was perfectly true to the 
story and I, as producer, was perfectly true to both. 'True' may 
seem a curious word to use about a not merely improbable but 
completely impossible story, but it is the word I want to use, for 
I am sure that the only way to deal successfully with an impossible 
conception in story, play or film is to be absolutely true and 
loyal to it from beginning to end. 

You may invent the maddest idea of which your brain is 
capable but if you state it clearly at the beginning and go on to 
develop it on sane and logical lines, keeping true to the one 
impossibility and letting every situation grow naturally out of it, 
just as if it were a sane and sound premise, you will find that it 



174 



will be accepted and enjoyed without question in spite of its 
primary absurdity. But if you introduce an alien fantasy which 
is not consistent with the original theme, you are lost. 

Alps Button starts with the statement that Aladdin's Lamp had 
not been lost or destroyed but been forgotten in rubbish heaps 
since the days of the Arabian Nights, until the British Government 
bought up a quantity of waste brass and copper to make up into 
buttons for soldiers' tunics. Alf 's button was one of these and the 
bit of metal of which it was made still had the power of summon- 
ing the attendant genie when it was rubbed. Grant that one 
absurdity and anything that happens in consequence cannot be 
disputed. 

Give the name part to Leslie Henson and make John Mac- 
Andrews play the part of his foil, Bill, and the story comes to life 
at once as an intensely comic picture. For when once Alf has got 
over his terror of the genie, who appears for orders whenever the 
button is rubbed, the instructions he gives, translated in the 
literal but oriental mind of the Slave of the Lamp, produce 
extraordinarily funny situations. The titles of this silent film are 
a large part of the fun, for the soldier's language has to be repre- 
sented for the most part in lines and dashes which the audience 
translate into words according to their several tastes and fancies. 

When it occurs to these two lonely souls that 'Eustace,' as they 
have christened the genie, might be persuaded to produce a much- 
needed bath for them, that simple request turns a tumble-down 
barn interior into an Arabian palace, complete with gorgeous 
maidens and half a dozen black slaves, who bring in a wonderful 
glass-sided bath-tub with masses of mirrors and taps and set it 
down in the middle of the splendid hall. Alf says: 'That's the 
worst of Eustace, he's so extravagant.' 

The two Tommies, in their modesty, drive out all the humans 
and arrange that Bill shall bathe first while Alf stays outside to 
keep guard. But there, after a minute or two, he sees an officer 
approaching and hurriedly summons the genie to clear everything 
away, pronto. So inside we see Bill luxuriating in a bath, with all 
the oriental splendour which dissolves around him and leaves 
him sitting naked on the floor of the tumble-down barn. 

After the war, when Alma Taylor, as Alf's wife, blushingly 
admits that the one thing she really wants is a baby, the genie 
hears and vanishes. In the sequel, with which the picture ends, 
Alf is awaiting the happy event and the nurse brings in one, two, 



175 



three babies to place in his arms. He says: That's just like Eustace: 
he always is so 'olesale.' 

This indication of the soldiers' language^by one or two dashes 
was the way the swear-words were suggested in Darlington's book, 
and I believe it was a truly artistic device and far more effective 
than the words themselves would have been, while offending 
nobody. Each reader filled in every hiatus according to his own 
imagination and attained to the full the satisfaction which grows 
from the use of really strong swear-words. 

I once knew a little boy who, after he had been thwarted in 
some childish desire, strode in high dudgeon to the end of the 
garden where there was a small shrubbery in which he could hide. 
His parents followed him stealthily and heard him spitting out all 
the 'swear-words' he knew — 'Bother, beastly, cat, blow, brutal, 
bottom? after which he felt better. 

The same little chap for his next birthday wanted a bicycle, 
with that terrible longing which perhaps only children know. 
Someone advised him to pray for it and then it might come. He 
did. They determined his prayers should be answered, but with a 
precaution dictated by their fear of danger. On the great day he 
crept eagerly down the garden path and suddenly stopped dead. 
Then he fell upon his knees and with clasped hands cried out 
from the bottom of his poor little heart: 'Oh. God. Don't you know 
the difference between a bicycle and a tricycle?' 

The 'trade show' of Alf's Button was a very great success. Per- 
haps I had better explain a little what is meant by a trade show, 
although its meaning is fairly well expressed in its name; for it is 
a private showing of a new film, given exclusively to the trade, to 
provide a foreknowledge of it and to promote its sale. A big and 
important theatre was usually hired for the purpose and the 
picture presented with full orchestra and any other artful aid 
which might be considered appropriate, such as a highly finished 
and illustrated synopsis eulogising the film, or perhaps merely 
describing it without exaggeration. Personally, I was rather 
pernickerty about the music and generally managed to secure 
Louis Levy to arrange it for me and to select and conduct the 
orchestra. He was very skilful. His music was apt, pleasant, never 
obtrusive — a great contrast to much of that which so often spoils 
modern pictures. 

The marked success in this case led up to an important change 
in my business arrangements. I had seen a great deal of Paul 



176 




Harry Royston in 'Oliver Twist' 




I 



1 u 



^ 



*0 

'I 1 



Kimberley during our mutual service in the National Motor 
Volunteers— afterwards R.A.S.C., M.T. (V)— both as fellow 
privates and later when we received our commissions together, 
and we had sailed together many times. I had met him first when 
he was in the service of my old friend, Frank Brockliss. Now he 
was an important film renter in Wardour Street, and, under the 
title of the Imperial Film Co. Ltd., had the best organised renting 
concern in the country. He had been suggesting for some time 
that we should join business forces. This would enable me to rent 
out my films direct through his connection instead of selling 
outright as was my previous practice. The advantage of having a 
subject like Alfs Button to give the scheme a flying start was too 
good to be missed. So we 'bought it in' ourselves, so to speak, and 
gravely disappointed some hopeful would-be purchasers. So then 
in 192 1 the whole building at No. 2, Denman Street, Piccadilly, 
was taken over and the new joint scheme inaugurated with Paul 
Kimberley as director-manager. 

In December, 1920, we held a very successful trade show of 
Mrs. Errickefs Reputation, a six-reel film which I produced in the 
summer from the novel by Thomas Cobb. I had a very excellent 
script for this novel which had already been made into a play 
under the title of Mrs. Pomerofs Reputation. The story was a very 
charming one of exactly the type which appealed to me most — 
the type for which we had earned a considerable repute, and it 
was beautifully played by Alma with excellent support from 
Jimmy Carew, Gwynne Herbert, Eileen Dennes and Gerald 
Ames. As our studios were only about a hundred yards from the 
Thames it seems a little surprising that this was, I believe, the 
only picture we made with the upper Thames as its principal 
background. It afforded us quite a lot of delightful scenery and a 
considerable part of the film was set in a beautiful house-boat in 
which we were made very welcome and allowed to do whatever 
we liked. Alma Taylor was very happily suited in the part of 
Mrs. Erricker, the very difficult role of a sincere and genuine 
young widow assuming the character of a flighty and careless 
society woman, saving a silly married friend from disgrace by 
taking upon herself the other's misdeeds. This is the part which 
was taken by Violet Vanbrugh in the stage version written by 
H. A. Vachell in collaboration with the author of the novel. 

Quite early in the following year we come to a story of an 
entirely different character, but it had a little flavour of Alfs Button 



177 



about it in its use of a slightly similar magic device. The Tinted 
Venus was a novel by F. Anstey, whose production as a film was in 
my hands, but I have forgotten all the details of the story although 
it presented at least one very interesting problem. However, I 
have the stills before me as I write and I think I can gather enough 
of the argument for my purpose. Imagine a rather common young 
man engaged to a girl whom he takes for an afternoon to some 
pleasure gardens — the original could have been Rosherville or 
Vauxhall. He sees a life-size statue of Venus in classical Grecian 
drapery and pays more attention to it than his fiancee approves. 
A silly tiff develops into a real quarrel and the girl tears off her 
token ring and returns it to her swain. That young man, in a 
spirit of bravado and to show how little he cares, slips the ring on 
to the finger of the statue which thereupon miraculously begins 
to come to life and assume the ordinary hues of flesh and blood. 
The numerous embarrassments and adventures which naturally 
ensue when 'she 5 follows the hero of her release back to his home 
can be imagined and need not be described. 

In order to portray the story properly the first thing to do was 
to find a lady of statuesque appearance to play the name part. 
This done, I had to procure a statue so exactly like her that the 
change from marble to reality would look sufficiently convincing. 
I took the lady to a sculptor who said he could and would make 
me a statue in the exact likeness of the original. He did. And the 
result was thoroughly disappointing. When the lady was whitened 
to look like marble she and the statue were the spitten image of 
each other, but when she stood aside the other didn't even look 
like a statue — it looked all wrong. This was very puzzling. 

Then I remembered from my early art training that, while the 
human head has a length of about one seventh of the total length 
of the whole figure from top to toe, there is a tradition in art that 
the head should always be drawn only one eighth of the total 
height, and in statuary it is often even reduced to one ninth. 
Consequently we are so used to seeing in pictures, and particularly 
in sculpture, people with small heads that when we are confronted 
with figures in natural proportions they look wrong. That is why 
full-length photographic portraits often look stocky and out of 
shape. Evidently that is what had happened here. So I was faced 
with the choice between an unnatural-looking statue coming to 
life, or alternatively a natural-looking one whose head swells 
visibly to greater size under the influence of the spell. I chose the 



i 7 8 



former on the double ground that I could not help myself and 
that people easily swallow anomalies in films, especially when 
there's magic about. 

The part of the young man whose foolishness with the ring had led 
to all the trouble was played by George Dewhurst who had joined 
the company some considerable time earlier. His girl friend, who 
certainly had a very great deal to put up with, did it very gracefully 
and well in the person of Eileen Dennes, and Alma Taylor and 
Gwynne Herbert and others of the company gave loyal support. 

And now a word or two of advice from an Old Man to a very 
Young One: pearls of great price for practically nothing. First, 
remember always that if you do a thing, anything, and put your 
whole brain and mind and soul into doing it, then, when it is 
accomplished, it will be something worthy, something of which 
you may be, and should be, proud. Whether it is a film you are 
making or a kitchen table or only a packing-case, if you make it 
with all the best that is in you, it will be in its way a work of art. 
I don't say it will be good art — it may be thoroughly bad, but it 
will be a separate and different thing, different in some tiny 
detail from anything anyone else has done. It will in some sort 
be expressive of yourself — and self-expression is the beginning of 
all art. 

Let us suppose it is a film you propose to make. First of all make 
up your mind and swear black and blue that you will not at any 
stage of the proceedings be content with anything but the very 
best that is within your power or reach — and that does not mean 
the most expensive. You start with an idea, naturally. Make quite 
certain that it is a good idea and until you are certain about that 
don't go any further in the matter. Then put it down on paper. 
See it in your mind's eye as so many separate scenes and write 
each one out as you see it. This is the most important part of the 
whole thing. In any case it is an exceedingly valuable exercise. 




179 



CHAPTER 18 

Long, long ago, I was moved to study the work of Freud — I 
didn't get very far with it — but I learned that one's memory was 
largely conditioned by one's will. That if I forgot to post a letter 
it was because it was one that I disliked writing. Now, that seemed 
to me to be mere poppycock, for I always forgot to post all 
my letters whether I had liked writing them or not. Even 
my early love-letters were found in my overcoat pocket days 
afterwards. 

But while it is evident that I have remembered quite a lot of 
things about my past film-life, I am hanged if I can remember 
anything at all about the end of it — the part which I certainly 
disliked intensely. It is a sad story of seemingly unreasonable 
failure bearing down with cruel insistence upon the very peak of 
my greatest success. It must have had its beginnings during that 
time of apparent triumph — somewhere there must have been a 
wrong turning taken blithely in the happy sunshine, and I have 
been searching through the published records of the times to see 
if I can trace it. The pages of the trade papers, notably the 
Kinematograph Weekly and its Tear Book have been laid open for me 
and I have been raking among the ashes of past times to see 
whether I can find an occasional piece of bone to give me a clue 
to the mystery. 

The first thing I found which seemed to have any bearing upon 
the matter was the record of the purchase in or about July, 19 19, 
of the Oatlands Park Estate at Weybridge which was near enough 
to our place at Walton to be very convenient for all sorts of 
exterior work. This was at the time when James Carew joined our 
stock-company and Anson Dyer — 'Dicky' Dyer, another good 
friend — signed a contract with us as Cartoonist. It was the time 
when two leading Swedish picture-producing companies amal- 
gamated to enter the foreign market. In short it was the time of 
considerable European prosperity, the boom after the Great War. 



180 



The estate had recently come into the market. It had fine 
gardens, access to a lake, plenty of trees and a large house, and 
though it was fairly expensive I had no qualms about it then for 
it seemed exactly what we wanted. It proved so indeed when it 
furnished so many of the luxury scenes for my Alps Button — the 
most successful film I ever made. It seemed wise to buy it while 
we had the chance, and, anyway, it was real estate and should 
fetch its price at any time if we wanted to dispose of it. 

But circumstances alter cases. To show how the atmosphere of 
the 'boom' impressed itself unconsciously upon people in the 
trade at that time, here is a little story which I believe to be 
perfectly true though I must not mention names. A young man 
of limited experience applied for a job with a big concern which 
had just entered the film production business. His application 
appeared to be going successfully and when he was asked how 
much salary he wanted he drew a bow at a venture and said, 'three 
hundred pounds.' He meant per annum. But they thought he 
meant monthly, and they gave him a contract for £3,690 a year, 
indefinitely! 

In the following year, 1920, the number of British films issued 
appears to have been decreasing, ours as well as others. But in our 
case, and probably in other cases as well, it was the number of 
titles, not the total length of films or their quality which was going 
down: the long films were getting longer and the 'shorts' were 
tending to disappear. Among the films of the year which may 
perhaps be remembered still there were Welsh-Pierson's very fine 
production (English) Nothing Else Matters, Griffith's Broken Blos- 
soms (American), the film of the year, and Miracle Man, perhaps 
the best all-round picture. Our Alps Button and The Amazing 
Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss come into the following year. 

We were producing regularly and continuously and with quite 
fair success, though to give a list of the names now that the pictures 
are all forgotten would be meaningless and merely boring. The 
whole trade was flourishing and we had our share in that. 

We formed our own distributing organisation in America and 
secured office accommodation in Glasgow. Then comes a sinister 
note though it did not appear so at the time: a mortgage on land 
and properties at Weybridge to secure all moneys due or to 
become due to Barclays Bank Ltd. That was on January 7th, 1920. 

Nevertheless it seems to me now to be portentous enough but 
that may be because I know what it all led to; I do not remember 



181 



that it struck any terror to our hearts at the time. It was, I 
supposed, all in the course of ordinary business. For very big ideas 
were taking shape in our affairs. Our films were growing ever 
bigger and more ambitious. Our two studios were neither enough 
in number nor size to cater for the quantity of our contemplated 
output, or for its size and importance. My ideas were taking form 
and growing. I wanted six bigger studios — two of them much 
bigger — all in a row so as to share as conveniently as possible the 
economy and accommodation of dressing rooms, carpenters' 
shops, scene docks, canteens, engineers' premises, crowd rooms 
and all the dozens of rooms which usually grow up afterwards 
around the studios. These were all to be on the ground floor with 
the studios above, served by a roadway running around the lot. 
All of this was carefully thought out and duly arranged and all 
the architect's drawings were made. Then we acquired the land 
and actually got as far as pegging out the positions of all the outer 
walls. 

Then there was the question of the electricity supply, for, 
although I still clung to my archaic idea of using daylight as far 
as ever possible, the auxiliary arc-lighting would call for a very 
large amount of power. I approached the electricity suppliers and 
they quoted £20,000 for the necessary cable. (They afterwards 
said that that was only a preliminary suggestion, when they 
found that I was putting in diesels and generators for the needed 
supply.) 

Diesels were frightfully expensive and not easy to obtain then, 
for all engineering was only beginning to recover after the wastages 
of war, but I heard of a couple of big engines with their attached 
generators out of a captured German submarine. I went and 
inspected them and I bought them. That, I see now, was almost 
certainly a false step. I realised that it would take a very long time 
to take them to pieces, transport them and get them re-erected on 
the site. So that involved me in the immediate building of a 
suitable engine-house. 

It was built close to the projected studio building. Afterwards, 
when everything was cleared away, that engine-house became 
the auditorium of a theatre and had a stage built on at its rear. It 
is now known as The Playhouse, Walton-on-Thames, and it has 
been, and still is, the scene of many an amateur opera and play. 
It was taken over for this purpose by my very old friend, 
George Carvill, and opened by Ellen Terry, then a very old lady. 



182 



Underneath its floor are still the huge compressed-air cylinders for 
starting the diesel engines and the fuel-oil tanks for feeding them. 

Close at hand is another building, now an important garage, 
which was put up at the same time as a scene-painting dock and 
construction shop. It is in two stories and had at the time it was 
first finished a six-inch slot running through the first floor for the 
whole width of the building so that backcloths, pinned on to the 
huge slung-frame, could be raised or lowered in the slot to suit 
the comfort and convenience of the painter who stood on the 
floor in front of it. This was also built in advance so as to serve the 
pressing needs of the existing studios. In the meantime the 
diesel engines and the generators were brought down from 
Liverpool and the engineers started erecting them with the aid of 
a travelling gantry under the roof of the new engine-house, and 
while they were at it — it took over a year — I ordered the switch- 
board for the distribution of power to the studios, and in due 
course that was also erected. This switchboard alone cost £3,250. 
That will give some idea of the size of the installation. 

Now comes another step. And another and another. There are 
particulars of an issue of £40,000 debentures, authorised August 
7th, 1920 — present issue £5,000 — charged on the company's 
undertaking and property present and future, including uncalled 
capital: the issue on September 30th, 1920, of £5,000 debentures, 
part of a series already registered. Another £3,000 on October 
14th. Another, same date, £2,500, and another twelve days later 
of a further £2,500. If I wasn't getting cold feet by that time I 
must have had a remarkably fine circulation. 

Yet what could I do? I feel sure now that the whole electrical 
undertaking was a mistake. There must surely have been some 
way of buying the juice instead of spending all that upon making 
it. But that is easy wisdom after it is too late. Besides, we were 
making good money with good films all this time: Anna the Adven- 
turess, publishing date, February 3rd, Alps Button, May 4th, Amazing 
Quest, July 3 1 st, and half a dozen other big films, as well as the usual 
number of smaller ones. There must have been several compen- 
sating things to disguise the dread of trouble to come, and even 
now I think, with full consciousness of the niggers in the woodpile 
which I have already mentioned, we might have won through if 
the national post-war boom had continued. 

The boom was followed by a slump and a serious one. The 
trade had a sharp lesson and pulled itself together. We didn't. I 



1S3 



Proposed new additions to 

suppose we couldn't with all those liabilities hanging round our 
necks. We carried on as long as carrying on was possible. 

Now I must go back a bit for in unconscious hurry to get 
through with things which taste but sadly in my mouth I have 
passed over several matters of contemporary interest. While my 
troubles were gathering momentum, serious efforts were made by 
important interests to abolish the evils of block-booking and 
advance releases. At a special meeting of all three associations a 
joint committee was formed and a better plan was drawn up but 
does not appear to have had very much effect upon the trade which 
gradually righted itself. It was at this meeting that poor Friese- 
Greene died so tragically in the middle of making a passionate 
appeal for unity in the trade. 

Friese-Greene is sometimes described as the inventor of cine- 
matography. I never met him but evidently he was a man of 
great personal charm and of vivid ideas which were not always 
practicable. He was a most successful portrait photographer but 
abandoned that for other things. He took out seventy-six patents 
on a most extraordinary variety of subjects. If enthusiasm could 
of itself provide a fortune he would surely have died a rich man. 

The greatest film of this year (1920) was Charlie Chaplin's 
The Kid which richly deserved even the great popularity it 
received. The Swedish Biograph films were making a continuous 
appeal; subjects with high ideals and no truckling to the lower 
tastes or mere silliness of the audiences. And Victor Seastrom of 
Sweden was a fine director. It was a great pity that he was lured 
away to America. That also happened to a great German director. 
In both cases their genius languished in a foreign atmosphere or 
perhaps undue and unsympathetic handling, and their work soon 
began to wane and never regained its early beauty and vitality. 
Transplanting was not a success and Europe lost what America 
failed to gain. 



184 




the Hepworth Studios, ig22 

Taste was on the whole improving though, I think. Though old- 
fashioned showmen continued to pander to the worst public, 
better ideas won through in the end, and British films were said 
to be 'infinitely higher than those of last year.' Sunday opening 
for the theatres was mooted and partly gained. The British Board 
of Film Censors was severely attacked by the lay press but 
survived, helped a good deal by the L.C.G. licence being made 
conditional upon films having the Board's certificate. Some 
British films found a hearty welcome on the American continent, 
among them The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss and Alf's Button. 
The last had two or three repeat runs in several large Canadian 
cities. 

It was in May of the following year (1921) that the Hepworth 
Company won the action for libel which was brought against it 
by the agent whose name was the same as that of an unpleasant 
character in a Phillips Oppenheim story which was filmed by us. 
I spoke of this much earlier in the book when I was dealing with 
a couple of other lawsuits, but without giving many details. The 
action was heard in King's Bench Division on May 10th before the 
Lord Chief Justice and a mixed special jury. Counsel for the 
plaintiff was Sir Edward Marshall Hall and for the defence, Mr. 
Douglas Hogg. It was brought by Bernard Montague (Mr. Marks 
in private life). The evidence of the producer, Henry Edwards, 
who was out of England at the time, had been taken on oath and 
was read. The great weakness of the case appeared to be that no 
one was brought forward who could testify that the villain in the 
picture was believed to represent the plaintiff. The jury, without 
leaving the box, returned a verdict for the defendants, and judg- 
ment with costs was given accordingly. 

In the autumn of the same year, Charlie Chaplin visited this 
country and had, of course, a tremendous reception. He travelled 
back to New York on the Berengaria, and Alma Taylor and I 



185 



with a director of the company, Mr. W. A. Reid, and his secretary 
were travellers in that same ship. We saw a great deal of Chaplin 
on that voyage and he proved a most delightful fellow-traveller. 
He was, and still is, a great artist, certainly one of the greatest the 
film industry has discovered. We met him again by invitation at 
his house at Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, and visited his studios 
and had many most interesting talks with him on production and 
allied subjects. 

Now I come to a part of the story which is bristling with diffi- 
culties, for although we had many good films in the making or 
made, we had very expensive schemes in hand and it began to 
be evident that it would be more than we could do to finance 
them. It had always been the intention to float a public company 
to provide the capital for our ventures but the after-war boom 
had collapsed, and all the financial people who understand these 
things said we should have to wait until the money market was 
favourable. 

We waited, but the various things we had started upon would 
not wait. They could not be held up and all the time they were 
using up money. It became apparent that either we must abandon 
all the enterprises we had set in motion — and that meant almost 
certain bankruptcy — or we must chance our arm and go to the 
public as originally intended. The scene-painting house was 
ready for use, the engine-house had all its machinery installed and 
nearly ready to run. All the drawings and designs for the new 
studios were prepared and the land secured and marked out, but 
we could not place the contract. Still we were advised to wait. The 
money market was not favourable. The times were not propitious. 
Yet, almost perforce, we launched a public company with a 
capital of a quarter of a million in £i shares (150,000 preference 
and 100,000 ordinary). This was Hep worth Picture Plays (1922) 
Ltd. It was almost still-born for it was very badly under- 
subscribed. I had been warned that this might be so and that the 
high reputation of the firm might not be proof against the unlucky 
choice of a date when the money market was depressed. But I 
felt that it must be risked, and I alone am to blame for the 
unhappy result. 

Almost at once we were in difficulties. The studio scheme had 
to be abandoned and the land released for the construction of a 
bypass road. (I had previously secured a promise that this would 
be diverted enough to pass round the studios if built.) There were 



186 



several more debenture issues — they seem to be piling upon one 
another most alarmingly. I suppose I really understood the 
matter and all its implications at the time, but looking back now 
over what records I can find I confess I am horribly muddled. 
The final blow seems to be implicit in an issue of £35,500 deben- 
tures charged on the company's undertaking and property 
including uncalled capital. What does not appear is the rate of 
interest, which I remember all too well was ten per cent. ! 

As may be imagined the time soon came when we were unable 
to meet the monthly drain of that punishing percentage. Directly 
I announced that fact a receiver was put in charge of the business 
and I was no longer of any account in it. 




187 



CHAPTER 19 

What I cannot understand now is that while all these dire 
happenings were proceeding, on the one hand, on the other I was 
cheerfully getting on with the production of my best and most 
important film, the second Comirf Thro' the Rye. I think I must have 
had something of a split mind: my memory refuses to be con- 
scious of these completely opposite phases occurring even within 
years of each other. But it does sometimes happen, indeed, perhaps 
rather frequently I think, that the onset of disaster is preluded and 
concealed by a spurt of better times than usual. I will go over 
some of the events of 1923 and see whether they will account for 
the confusion. 

'Rye' was described as one of the outstanding films among 
several fine English pictures released — in order of date it was 
the sixth, and last, of the Hepworth Company films put out 
that year. Of the others a very remarkable one was Henry 
Edwards' Lily in the Alley — remarkable because it was a long 
feature film without any titles except that opening one. All the 
story was explained by the action. 

The British National Film League was started two years before 
this to raise the standard, improve the quality and promote the 
general interests of British films. By the beginning of this year it 
included every British producing company of consequence, and 
now it decided to run a British Film Week in London, to be 
followed by similar shows in various areas all over the country. 
Under the presidency of Col. A. C. Bromhead, a luncheon was 
held early in November with the Prince of Wales as the chief 
guest. There were many great films this year, mostly foreign of 
course, and they necessarily were not eligible. Unfortunately the 
number of good English films was not sufficient to fill the bill and 
there were adverse comments and many complaints that the 
pictures submitted for exhibition were of too varied a quality for 



188 



so great an occasion. All the same, the effect on the whole was 
that of an acknowledged and successful move. 

Of the foreign films it was noticeable that Harold Lloyd 
produced great comedies which were tremendously popular, and 
the coming of cartoons with Felix the Cat started the most popular 
series in the country. Louis Lumiere, who had first shown films to 
the public at Lyons on March 22, 1895, was hailed as the inventor 
of cinematography. I do not know that he ever himself laid claim 
to that title but it is evident that it should be a very distributed 
one, for numbers of people have had a hand in the birth of that 
invention. There was no progress in the fight against the entertain- 
ment tax, but several British films found sales in America, includ- 
ing most of the Hepworth pictures. In August, 1923, the Hep- 
worth Company announced an agreement whereby its pictures 
would be handled by Ideal Films Ltd. 

At the inaugural luncheon of the B.N.F.L. at the Hotel Vic- 
toria with Col. A. C. Bromhead, C.B.E., in the chair, I was very 
thrilled to meet the Prince of Wales. He evidently was, or ap- 
peared to be, very interested in British films. He was a most 
natural and genuinely kindly gentleman, courteous and friendly, 
with unaffected dignity. I formed that impression then, greatly 
intensified later on when circumstances put him at the dictation 
of hostile interests and he was compelled to lay down his crown. 
It seemed to me, and it seems to me still, that we lost then the 
best King we had ever had since Alfred. 

Among others present at the luncheon were several very 
important people, including the Earl of Abercrombie who had 
often expressed great interest in Hepworth films. The meeting was 
a great success and it led to the taking of the Scala Theatre for 
the first London British Film Week. 

As may be imagined I was most anxious to put up a good show- 
ing and as we had had long notice that this film week would in the 
end be forthcoming, I had, in my intention, set aside the still 
scarcely begun ComirC Thro" the Rye. I felt in my bones that it was 
going to be a good picture and indeed I believed it would turn 
out to be the best I had ever made. And then, I suppose, largely 
because of the very many other difficult and disturbing things 
which were going on around me, I had at that time no other 
picture of my own make which had not already been shown or 
was in any way competent to take its place on such an important 
occasion. 



189 



The first version ofComin' Thro 9 the Rye, made in 191 6, had been 
a great favourite with the public, but I had long felt that such a 
popular story was worthy of more generous treatment than it 
received in those comparatively primitive days. The rights then 
had been acquired for a limited period only, but now we bought 
them for all time, that is, of course, till the copyright runs out 
fifty years after the author's death. I set about to make the film 
as worthily as I possibly could. 

The first thing was to find a rye-field — that is to say, a field 
which was intended to be sown with rye. I couldn't find one 
within many miles and as I wanted it close at hand I rented a 
field just opposite the studios and had it sown. It had a beautiful 
old oak tree just in the right place to make a conspicuous feature 
in my picture. Before it was sown it had to be ploughed and that 
ploughing made a good opening shot for the film. Then there was 
the sowing which was also photographed, and the real story 
begins when the young crop is half a dozen inches high. It ends 
when it is harvested by an old man who looks something like 
Father Time. 

Most of the exteriors were taken at Moreton Old Hall in 
Cheshire, a magnificent timbered building which made lovely 
backgrounds from a dozen different angles. We had a great stroke 
of luck here when we discovered a real rye-field right up against 
the rear of the old house. This keyed in excellently with our own 
rye-field back at Walton. Our interior scenes were built up exactly 
to match the real rooms in the old house and everything was 
perfectly in keeping. 

But luck didn't hold throughout. We were about three quarters 
of the way through the film, that is to say well on in the summer, 
for the picture took most of the year to complete, when the 
leading man, Shayle Gardner, playing the principal part of Paul 
Vasher, contracted typhoid fever and was out of the cast for 
months. I did all I could with the remaining scenes in which 
Vasher does not appear, but there is no need to point out how 
very awkward it was. 

When it came to providing a worthy film for the British Film 
Week at the Scala Theatre I had nothing to offer. 

But it happened, rather curiously, for things rarely turned out 
that way, that the 'Rye' film was complete up to a certain point, 
because the order of its taking had been to a great extent con- 
ditioned by the growing up of the rye. So with much misgiving I 



190 



decided to let it appear as a sort of 'unfinished symphony.* It 
was in fact a great success even in that truncated form, and with 
its 'stage presentation,' its specially selected music, and an 
orchestra of twenty-eight musicians, it attracted enthusiastic 
attention. 

Shayle Gardner recovered in due course, to the very great and 
thankful relief of everybody, and came back to the studio to 
complete the picture, though not until December. It all fitted 
well at last and showed no untidy joins. 

It is strange to recall that, apart from this, one of our greatest 
difficulties was to make a footpath through our rye-field which 
would not look at all artificial. People walking along the selected 
route seemed to make no difference at all. What was trampled 
down one day grew up again in the night. So we filled a wooden 
box with heavy stones and towed that behind the procession of 
walkers and after a while that produced the effect in the end. The 
rye scenes were, of course, taken at various times during the 
summer so that the age of the crop should correspond with the 
time-development of the story. 

Everybody worked to the very best of his or her ability in this 
picture and I put all that I have in me into it. I did not know at 
the time that it was going to be my 'swan song,' but so it proved, 
for it was the last of the Hep worth Picture Plays. 

Now I must pick up the main story again at the point where 
the receiver was appointed to sell or realise the assets of the 
company and repay to the debenture holders the amount of their 
holdings, £35,500 in all. It appeared that this should not be at 
all difficult for the assets of the company were then conservatively 
valued at between three and four times that amount. He was a 
kindly man, friendly disposed and probably very skilful in his 
own particular line but without special knowledge of the film 
business, not that that was necessarily needful. He told me that 
in his last receivership he had not only repaid the debentures in 
full but had realised a considerable sum in addition that he had 
been able to hand back to the company, and with which they 
were able to restart their undertaking. Receivers don't have to do 
that. Their only concern is to realise enough to pay off the 
debentures in full. After that they have no further duties or 
interest in the matter. They have no concern with shareholders 
or creditors. 



191 



In our case, however, he was not so successful. The contents of 
the engine-house, diesels and generators, the compressing plant, 
the travelling gantry and the switchboard, which last alone had 
cost £3,250, were all sold together for £950. The two studios, 
with the freehold land on which they were built, together with all 
accessories, the four printing and developing machines, the drying 
machines, the electric-lighting apparatus, cameras, and in fact 
everything there went for £4,000 as a going concern. The same 
sad story went right through the whole deal and in the end the 
debenture holders got only seven shillings in the pound! 

It may perhaps be of interest to see how the rest of the trade in 
England was faring during the decline and fall of my company. 
It is no consolation — but it may be some little explanation — that 
other producers in the country were in similar straits, though 
their efforts to struggle through were more successful. It is an 
indication of the depth of worry in which I was submerged that 
I was quite unaware until years afterwards that others were at 
that time nearly as deeply under. 

In spite of the fact that the Snowden budget, Labour being 
in power, remitted the strangling entertainment tax on all seats 
priced at sixpence and under, and that in many other respects the 
year opened well for the industry; in spite of the fact that the 
Prince of Wales' blessing upon British pictures, given in the 
previous November, supported by the Premier and many im- 
portant leaders, was still having its beneficial effect upon all 
thoughtful people, the production of British films gradually 
declined during the year. Until at the end of it there came a time 
when not a single foot of film was being exposed in any British 
studio. 

Nevertheless, there were at least two interesting events this year. 
One was the Kinematograph Garden Party at the Royal Botanical 
Gardens which not only was a great social success but resulted in 
a nice little sum of £2,500 for the Trade Benevolent Fund, by 
then truly and thoroughly on its feet. The other was the gathering 
together, at the instance of W. N. Blake, of all the old-timers in 
the industry since 1903 at the Holborn Restaurant on December 
9th. This was so successful that there was a clamant demand for 
its repetition every succeeding year until the last of the veterans 
departed. That has not happened yet and the veterans are still 
meeting annually, under the skilful auspices of Tommy France, 
though some of us are beginning to get a little old. At the original 



192 



meeting dear old Will Day brought a selection from his wonderful 
exhibit at the South Kensington Museum of ancient apparatus of 
Kinematography, so that there were veterans then both inanimate 
and human, united once more. 

During this year colour-films and stereo-films were both 
continually cropping up, with little success for the one and none 
for the other. Sound films on the other hand were beginning to 
show signs of being a practical proposition, and the de Forrest 
'Phono-film' embodies the embryo of all that the present sound 
films have now successfully accomplished. 

Meanwhile I, and half a dozen of the players who had taken the 
principal parts in 'Rye,' were doing a little entertainment turn on 
our own. It should be mentioned that the stage 'presentation' 
which I had produced for this film at its first showing at the Scala 
had been very successful and attracted a great deal of attention. 
When the film was afterwards completed I thought it would be 
good fun to take a London theatre and give it a run. This idea 
was financed by Jimmy White. The theatre I wanted — one of the 
largest — had another film running at the time, but I was told that 
I could have the first refusal after the run came to an end if I paid 
two hundred pounds as a deposit to secure it. I did that and the 
run came to an end after several weeks, and then another show 
was put on with no word said to me about it! 

My natural protests were met with a bland smile at my 
credulity and ignorance of theatrical usage and I realised that I 
was beaten, for a remedy would be too costly for me. So I fell 
back upon the Scala, which is a beautiful theatre but too much 
off the beaten track. 

I cannot describe this special 'presentation' without a lot of 
drawings and diagrams which would be uninteresting. But it 
gave the effect of a huge picture in a gilt frame which at first 
showed nothing but the ordinary title familiar on every silent 
film. This gradually dissolved into a stage scene with the living 
actors going silently through their parts. That dissolved into 
another title filling the frame, to be replaced again by the appro- 
priate scene and so on. That sounds very bald but the effect was 
quite magical and as the actors were 'personal appearances,' the 
whole thing went with a swing and pleased everybody. So much 
so that I persuaded Sir Oswald Stoll to come and see it with a 
view to putting the 'act' — without the film, of course — on at the 
Coliseum. 



N 



193 



The complete show ran at the Scala for thirteen weeks, but it 
did not actually make money though it covered expenses. As it 
happens I can give an actual date in this instance, for we reached 
the hundredth performance on my fiftieth birthday, March 19th, 
1924. Then Stoll gave me a three weeks' contract to run the show 
without the film at the Coliseum for two hundred pounds a week. 
We all enjoyed that immensely. Then we travelled with it with 
the film to numbers of picture theatres throughout the country 
wherever there was a stage big enough to carry it, but that 
number was naturally limited. 

At the Coliseum there was a rather particular stage-manager, 
unusual because he did not like bad language used in the theatre 
behind the scenes, whatever happened in front. Our set, of course, 
was permanently on a section of the revolving stage so we had 
nothing to do but to wait while it pulled round into position and 
then lit up. On one occasion the light fused and the electrician 
said 'Damn' under his breath. The manager said, 'Mr. Smith, 
Mr. Smith, MISTER SMITH!' in accents of growing horror. 

I remember the stage and all the dressing-rooms and every- 
thing about the place behind the curtain was immaculately clean, 
and that is not usual in a theatre. I liked that stage-manager, 
indeed all the personnel there were exceedingly nice, and we had 
a very good time. Once I was called round to the front of the 
house to try and pacify an old lady who 'was creating somefink 
awful.' When I got there I found her in indignant tears and she 
told me she had come up all the way from the country to see Alma 
Taylor in the flesh and had been put off with a coloured film. I 
tried hard to reassure her that she really had seen Alma, but 
she would not be convinced, so I took her round to the back and 
introduced her to the lady, and it was rather a compliment to the 
effectiveness of the illusion. 




194 



CHAPTER 20 

I am not prepared to deny that the gradual and final collapse of 
the business which had been the major part of my life was not a 
very real grief to me. It certainly was. But I was not broken by it, 
except, of course, financially, and even that was not complete. 
In fact from the time when failure began to loom as a probability, 
if not a certainty, I always had at the back of my mind that I still 
had personal assets in the form of experience and reputation 
which should be fairly readily saleable. It was only a thin consola- 
tion for the loss of so very much I held dear, but I felt that it 
would be there when I needed it. 

It was a poor conceit but I did feel that if the worst should 
happen and it became known in the trade that I was free to 
consider engagement as a film director there would not be much 
lack of opportunities for me to choose from. But no such oppor- 
tunity offered. I dare say my many friends among my former 
competitors were sorry to see me go under but they did not throw 
me a line. Maybe it was a sense of delicacy that restrained them. 
Maybe if / had gone to them it would have been different, but I 
did not think of that until it was too late to try it. Perhaps that 
was my last false step. 

I had long ago taken into my own keeping the negatives which 
I had made personally of certain historical subjects, like the visit 
of Queen Victoria to Dublin, the Queen's funeral and so on, and 
when all the trouble was over, and I had plenty of time on my 
hands, I cut up and re-arranged all these, with suitable titling, 
into an historical film which I called Through Three Reigns. I trade- 
showed it on my own in a London theatre and it was very well 
received. If it had not been for the still-remaining evil of 'advance 
booking' I should probably have made a nice little bit of money 
with it. But in the meantime, 'Sound Pictures' burst like a bomb 
upon the silent film industry. All the theatres were feverishly 
'wired for sound' and silent films which had not already got their 



195 



dates booked were relegated to the third-rate limbo — if they 
could get any bookings at all. Through Three Reigns was still-born. 

So I rearranged my material with a number of early Hepworth 
films which I managed to pick up here and there — comics mostly 
— into a lecture called The Story of the Films with which, years 
afterwards, I had a moderate success in all sorts of big towns in 
England, Ireland and Scotland. 

There is very little left to tell, for, though this is the story of my 
life, my film life is the only part of it that is likely to be of interest 
to anyone but myself. But it is not to be assumed that there was 
any moaning. I had had a very full and happy life. I have had a 
very happy one since; not so full but certainly not empty, and I 
haven't finished it yet. 

The grievous thing about that studio debacle was that I had 
foreseen and foretold the coming of a great shortage of studio 
floor space in England before our studios were given away for 
little more than the value of the land they were built on, and I 
pleaded for delay and waiting for a better price. It was only a year 
or two afterwards that producers were screaming for floor space 
and prices were soaring. 

I was in America at the time of the actual sale, trying to 
dispose of 'Rye' in the interests of the liquidation. I rented a 
theatre in New York for a private showing and engaged a 'sure- 
fire' organist to accompany the film with the special music which 
had all been so carefully prepared beforehand for the London 
showing and the British Film Week. He refused the suggestion of 
a rehearsal; he said he could read music and had played for 
hundreds of films. He made an awful mess of it; got the most 
cheerful tunes in the tragic scenes and vice versa, and mucked up 
the whole thing. But in any case the film was quite unsuited to 
the then American ideas. I was told that it might not be so bad if 
it was jazzed up a bit and I came home. 

The sale of the negatives — all of the negatives we had issued in 
twenty-four years — was another blow. They were sold to a man 
who did not know how to use them and eventually resold them to 
be melted down for 'dope' for aeroplane wings. And with them 
he was given, thrown in, the rights of such copyright subjects as 
Alps Button. I bought-in 'Rye' myself and saved it from that fate — 
I suppose it would have gone with the others if I had not had it in 
America. 

Now it would be utterly false and unworthy if I pretended I 



196 



did not mind all these happenings. I did mind very much indeed. 
But I could not quite believe they were final. Perhaps, Micawber- 
like, I kept on hoping that something would turn up. But it never 
did, and the last of the old assets were disposed of; and the 
unfortunate debenture-holders — mostly my children and myself 
— still clinging to the belief that the deeds were worth much more 
than their face value, received a beggarly seven shillings in the 
pound. It was clear that the end had really come. 

Nevertheless, I clung to what I thought was my good repute 
and felt sure that as soon as I was known to be free, some other 
producing company — perhaps several of them — would bid for my 
services and I should be able to start again without any of the 
drag of business worries on my shoulders. But that didn't happen. 

Nevertheless, I was not down and out or even near it! I felt 
the fierce bludgeonings but though I was not the master of my 
fate my head was in a mess but unbowed. 

I sold my ship — nasty jar, that — and my car, and drew in 
horns wherever I could. The Faithfull boys, men rather, true to 
type as ever, hung around. Stanley's 'still' and enlargement 
business continued in being, for I had arranged with the receiver 
to let him carry on till the building was sold, and I went into it 
with him. When we were cleared out, we three set up in a D. and 
P. business — developing and printing amateur roll-films — first at 
Hampton Hill and then at Staines, Middlesex. There I built and 
patented another developing machine, quite different this time, 
for roll-films of all sizes. I sold several of the machines for between 
three and four hundred pounds each, which helped, and later 
we took in enlarging of stills for the film trade and installed 
machinery for that. But nothing really paid. I struggled and 
squirmed and tried many things, but the small capital dwindled 
and got smaller still. 

I was still living at Walton-on-Thames — my daughter, Barbara, 
was old enough to be mother to the two other children and me, 
and we moved into a bungalow which was easier to manage than 
the house. My architect friend, Carvill, had purchased the power- 
house cleared of all its machinery, and turned it into a very jolly 
little theatre for amateur theatricals and the like. He conceived 
the idea of starting an amateur operatic society and got hold of a 
chap who, rather reluctantly, agreed to run it as musical director. 
He had approached me, for he had been in my little choir, but I 
told him it was far beyond my capacity. But the other chap 



197 



seemed dreadfully doubtful and Carvill asked me again. At last I 
agreed to stand by and try to take a rehearsal if ever there was a 
let-down. 

The first rehearsal was called and there was no conductor! 
Greatly dismayed, I took it on, and I held it for four years. We 
did Mikado first, then Patience, Ruddigore and Gondoliers. The joy 
of those adventures with that very clever producer, Miss ClaraDow, 
to take care of the acting, healed all my little wounds and cheered 
me up again. 

But I must not allow myself to be tempted into reminiscences 
which cannot be of much interest now that they are divorced 
from films. So I am going to cut out several years which were 
unprofitable though not unhappy and jump to the time when, by 
chance, I slid back into the film-industry again. 

First, however, I must tell of a curious incident, because 
recounting it is the only way in which I can discharge a debt of 
gratitude. I have said I was not unhappy and that was still true 
but I was in low water and slowly getting deeper and deeper and 
beginning to wonder a little where it was going to end. And then 
one morning at breakfast time I opened a registered envelope 
addressed to me: — nothing in it but a bank note for £100! There 
was no clue of any sort as to where it had come from — even the 
post-mark told me nothing. By no earthly means can I say 
thank-you except by this public acknowledgment. If the generous 
and understanding donor should chance to see this I hope it will 
be taken as a token of sincere gratitude for an act which did even 
more good than was perhaps expected of it. 

For it was at this point that things did begin to look up again 
for me. Paul Kimberley had, of course, been stranded on the same 
shore by the same wave which took me there. We walked up the 
steep beach in different directions and I saw very little of him 
afterwards for a long time. He did in the end, however, get into a 
very good job as managing director of the English branch of an 
American film company, the National Screen Service Ltd. This 
international firm was formed with the object of making and 
supplying 'trailers' to advertise each week the film which was to 
be shown the following week in the picture theatres. 

It will perhaps be remembered that the British Board of Film 
Censors, which I had a small share in forming in 19 12, was 
charged with the duty of deciding whether or not each film, 
produced here or imported, was fit to show in English picture 



iq8 



houses. But they soon found that they could not do this fairly 
unless they had two classes of certificates, one called 'A' for films 
which were not recommended for children, and another called 
'U' for universal exhibition. This scheme worked well for a long 
time, but the coming of 'trailers' put a different complexion upon 
it. For the trailer for an 'A 5 film quite naturally often got shown 
during a week in which the rest of the programme was 'U,' and 
the theatre was consequently full of children! 

Even the trailer was not good for kids, but they got their 
appetites whetted and wanted to see the film as well. The licensing 
authorities were up in arms and said these things must not be, 
and the censorship board was in a quandary. Brooke- Wilkinson, 
wise man, hit upon the remedy. He said we will have 'U' trailers 
on 'A' films as well as on the others, and the censor shall see them 
all and guarantee their innocence. And the people who make 
trailers must take care that they do not contain anything which 
would prevent them being passed as 'U,' whatever the 'feature' 
might be like. The licensing people agreed and Kimberley agreed, 
but they all said that there must be a liaison officer to see that the 
conditions were duly carried out. But who? 

Brooke- Wilkinson said, 'What about Hep worth?' and Paul 
Kimberley said, 'Why not Hep worth?' — both at the same time. 
So it came to pass that I joined the staff of National Screen 
Service, and of two other major companies who were making their 
own trailers, and I have been there ever since. 

The scheme functioned so well that my work gradually became 
little more than a sinecure. I filled in my time in many ways in 
the interest of National Screen Service and gradually settled down 
to my present job: the production of 16 mm. stereoscenic sound 
films in colour with a view to subsequent enlargement to 35 mm. 
for the more important picture theatres. 

I am happy in this job which takes me out into beautiful scenery 
and the making of the sort of films I enjoy. I have numbers of 
friends, dear friends, in this company and in the film trade 
generally. Fate has been good to me after all. I am content. 



199 



A" 



p* 






%i 



<gBJ_ si 1 m liif'i; 



1 \\ 



EPILOGUE 

Now that it is all over, I am sometimes assailed by little whispering 
doubts — a very slight murmuring, as of a conscience awakening 
too late and faintly suggesting that this and that might have been 
done to turn aside the hand of fate. It is then that I wonder 
whether I ought to have foreseen the catastrophe and taken steps 
to avert it; whether I ought to have realised that we were in for 
a slump which would probably be only temporary and might 
have been better met by heaving-to and trying to ride out the 
storm in inactivity, or even running before the wind under bare 
poles. 

In other words, ought I, much earlier, to have disbanded the 
stock -company I was so proud of, and laid off the staff who had 
always been so loyal to me, and just sat down and waited for 
better times? I don't know. I don't know. The onset of the trouble 
was so desperately gradual and we were so involved in new 
ventures, which would have been very difficult to abandon before 
the necessity for doing so became clear and indisputable, that I 
cannot tell whether to blame myself or not. Even after the event, 
when it is proverbially so much easier to be wise, I still cannot see 
where there was a false step which should have been avoided. 

Did I devote too much thought to my yachting and allow my 
eyes to stray from the danger threatening on land? Ought I now 
to be adapting the old lament: 'Had I but served my job as I have 
served my ship, it would not have brought my grey hairs in sorrow 
to the grave.' 



200 



But, hang it all! Who can tell? And anyway, I wasn't in the 
grave then and I am not now. My hair wasn't grey — it's only 
partly grey now, and I am not 'in sorrow' either. There are many 
things I am sorry about; many things I ought to have done and 
didn't, and many others I might have done better. But I am not 
worrying over spilt milk: I am not 'in sorrow.' 

I have a dear, good wife; happy, loving children, and a fairly 
important job of work in which I am very interested and do 
thoroughly enjoy. Could any man say more in the evening of his 
life? 

And I remember always one beautiful incident, which I 
promised to tell about when I came to the end of my story. 

It was when matters were looking very black indeed that I 
called my staff around me and told them I had no choice but to 
sack half of them and try to carry on with the other half till things 
looked up again. They didn't say anything; just quietly slipped 
away. Next day they came back at me with a 'round robin' signed 
by all of them. It asked me to give up the idea of keeping half the 
staff at full wages and instead keep them all on at half-pay. I was 
glad to agree to this, for it seemed to me to be a very fine and 
generous gesture. 

But the day came, and not so very long after, when I had to tell 
them that there was no money left and with bitter regret I must 
part with all of them, in spite of the fine thing they had done to 
help me try to save the sinking ship. It is difficult to believe how 
they met that final blow. 

They sent a small deputation to me to ask whether I could find 
money to buy enough paint to paint the factory. I said it was not 
impossible, but why? 

They bought the paint, plenty of it, and without a penny of 
pay they set to and painted the whole factory, inside and out: the 
women and girls painted the inside and the men the exteriors. It 
took a long time but they kept on until it was well and truly 
finished. That was their tribute. Even after all these years my eyes, 
are smarting as I write of it. 



201 



*Tkou wear a lion's hide: Doff it for shame , 
And hang a calf's skin on those recreant limbs' 




When the First Studio was built at Walton-on-Thames, the 
Owners Proudly Cut their Monogram upon a Stone Tablet and 
Set it Firmly into the Wall of a Gable End. 

When the Full Range of Studios and Laboratories was Com- 
pleted, it Stood there for all to see, though it was No Longer a 
'Trade Mark, 5 only an Emblem. 

When the Company folded up and the complete building was 
sold, the new owners obliterated the symbol by covering it in with 
boarding. 




But when Time laid a cruel hand upon Great Extravagances 
and closed up most of the studios, wind and weather were 
allowed to work their will; the boarding wore away and the 
Emblem stood revealed again. 



202 



INDEX 



' A * and ' U ' Films, 199 

• A.B.G. of the Cinematograph,' 46 

Accumulator Battery, 42 

Acres, Birt, 26 

Actors' ' Boiling Points,' 137 

Advertisement and Account Collecting, 24 

Advice, 179 

Agnosticism, 141 

Ainley, Henry, 132, 135 

Aladdin's Lamp, 1 75 

alf's button, 174, 176, 177, 181, 183, 185, 196 

Algiers and Tangier, 49 

Alhambra, Leicester Square, 36 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND, 63 

Amateur Photographer, The, 34 

AMAZING QUEST OF MR. ERNEST BLISS, 169, 1 8 
185 

American Agency, 65 
American Anti-Trust Law, 161 
American Biograph Co., 45 
American Mutoscope Co., 45 
American Objections, 76 
American Office, 181 
American Order, 89 
American Organist, 196 
American Practice, 113 
American Producers, 75 
American Technique, 76 
Ames, Gerald, 163, 170, 173 
Animatograph, The, 29 

ANNA, THE ADVENTURESS, 170, 1 83 

Anstey, F., 178 

Aping American Films, 55 

Apocalypse, 202 

Arabian Nights, 175 

Arc Lamp, First hand-feed, 29 

Arranging the Script, 137 

Artificial Rain, 153 

Asking for the Moon, 102 

Atkinson, G. A., 167 

Attention Value, 121 

AT THE FOOT OF THE SCAFFOLD, 115 

Aunt Bella, 53 

Aunt Maud, 1 1 

Aunts and Great-aunts, 10 

Author versus Producer, 156 

Automatic Arc Lamp, 26, 73 

Automaton, The, 16 

baby on the barge, 1 36 

baby's playmate, 94 

Back-Garden Stage, 51 

Baddeley, Angela, 150 

Bank Note £100, 198 

Ban on Make-up, 1 14 

Barker, Will, 80, 101, 102, 108, 155, 168 

barnaby rudoe, 159, 161 

basilisk, 127 

Bauermeister, 95 

Baynes, Captain, 128 

Beale's Choreutoscope, 17 

Beef-steak Puddings, 24 

Belgian Town, 158 

Beliefs, Variety of my, 141 



Belton, Mr., 15 

Benevolent Fund, 161, 163, 192 
Bentley, Thomas, III, 125 
Betsy Trotwood's House, 125 
Beverley Hills, 186 
Bichromate of Potash, 14 
Big Ideas, 182 
Bioscope, The, 32, 38, 80 
Birkenhead, Lord, 100, 103 

BIRTH OF A NATION, 1 46, l6l 

Biunial Lantern, 22 

BLACK BEAUTY, 94 
BLACK BEAUTY 2, 122 

Black Beetles, II, 14 

BLACKPOOL, 43 

Blake, W. N., 192 
blind fate, 113 
' Block Booking,' 147 
' Bluebird,' 164, 165 
Boat Race Film, 38 
Bonn of High Holborn, 30 
Bonn's Mechanism, 31 

BOTTLE, THE, 127 

Boy's Larks, 84 

Bramble Bank, 50 

British Board of Film Censors, 109 

British Film Week, 188, 189 

British National Film League, 188 

BRITISH NORTH BORNEO, 69 

Brockliss, Frank, 177 

BROKEN BLOSSOMS, l8l 
BROKEN IN THE WARS, 1 63 

Bromhead, A. C, 57, 64, 108, 188, 189 
Brookes, Arthur C., 36, 109 
Brooke-Wilkinson, J., 36, 108, 199 
Brownsea Island, 50 
Buchan, Colonel J., 161 
Bunny, John, 113 
Burglar and the Beard, 57 
Butcher, Messrs., 24 

Cabinet Ministers, 100 

Cadell, Jean, 173 

Campbell, Madge, 120 

Camera on Engine Front, 45 

Cantelowes Road, 18, 20 

Carew, James, 170, 173, 181 

Carlisle House, 1 1 o 

Cartoons, 180, 189 

Garvill, George, 182, 197 

Castle of Elsinore, 116, 119 

Catalogue Ends, 70 

Cecil Court, 30, 64 

Celluloid Fires, 34 

Censorship, 61 

Censors of Films, 108-9, 185, 199 

Chapel-en-le-Frith, 58 

Chaplin, Charlie, 146, 163, 184, 185, 18 

Chart Book, 50, 166 

Chemist's Shop, 24 

Chevalier, Albert, 127, 133 

Childhood, 9 

CHIMES, THE, 1 28 

CIGARETTE MAKER'S ROMANCE, Il8 



203 



Cinematograph Cameras, 28 
Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association, 101 
Cinematograph Film-processing, 41 
Cinephone, 97 

CITY IMPERIAL VOLUNTEERS, 48 
CITY OF BEAUTIFUL NONSENSE, 169 
C.I.v's RETURN, 55 

Clark, Miss Mabel, 42, 63 
Close, Miss Ivy, 1 1 1 
Close-ups, 55 

COBWEB, 152 

Coliseum, London, 193, 194 

Collodio-Bromide, 54 

Colman, Ronald, 170, 173 

Colonial's Review, 62 

Coloured Celluloid, 91 

comin' thro' the rye, First Version, 131, 190 

comin* thro' the rye, Second Version, 188, 

189, 190, 193, 196 
Comedians, Various, 145 

COMIC COSTUME RACE FOR CYCLISTS, 43 

Command Performance, 131 
Competitors, My Former, 195 
Conducting an 'Opera,' 197 
Confidence, 144 

CONJUROR AND THE BOER, 48 

Consolation, 195 

Conti, Italia, 150 

1 Contributions to the War,' 136 

Converted Shops as Cinemas, 71 

CORNISH MINING VILLAGE, 44 

Coronation Postponed, 62 
Coroner's Inquest, 88 
Continuous Processing, 39 
Count your Blessings, 142 
Coward, Noel, 125 
'Credits,' No, 152 
Cricks and Martin, 78 
Curious Camera, 43 

CYCLE GYMKHANA, 43 

Dallmayer, Thomas, 28 
Dancers on a Lake, 150 
' D. and P.' Business, 197 
Dark Studios, 75 
Darlington, W. A., 174 
Dartmoor, 170 

DAVID COPPERFIELD, 125 
DAVID GARRICK, Il8 

Day's Collection, Will, 193 
Deal Wind-mill, 10 

DEATH OF NELSON, 69 

Debenture Holders, 197 
Decline and Fall, 192 
Dennes, Eileen, 168 
Department of Information, 161 
Desmond, Eric, 117, 126 
Developing the Film, 38 
Developing Machine, 39 
Dewhurst, George, 179 
Diamond Jubilee, 28 
Diesel Engines, 182 
Director's Prompting, 144 
Disabled Soldiers, 162 

DISAPPOINTED LONDON, 62 

Dishonest Showmen, 59 
'Dissolves,' 123 
Dissolving Views, 36 
Diving Bell, 16 
Doctor and the Dummy, 7 1 

DONKEY RACE, 42 

' Dope ' for Aeroplanes, 196 
Double Photography, 171 
Dow, Clara, 198 

DRAKE'S LOVE STORY, Iig 

Dressing Rooms and Green-Room, 8q 
Drink as an Aid, 145 

DRIVE PAST OF FOUR-IN-HANDS, 42 

Drunkenness, 54 
Drying Machines, 130 
Dry-plate Photography, 10 

DUCHESS AMD HER PIO BABY, 63 



DUMB COMRADES, 122 

Dyer, Anson (Dicky), 180 

Earliest photography, 15 
Earl of Abercrombie, 189 
Early Printer, 44 
Eastman, George, 79 

ECCENTRIC DANCER, 55 

Edison Films, 29, 46 

Editing, 136 

Edwardes, Tickner, 150 

Edwards, Henry, 80, 149, 154, 159, 160 162, 167 

Electrical Exhibition, Crystal Palace, 1892, 26 

Electricity Supply, 182 

Elliott, Maxine, 1 19 

Elsinore Castle, 116, 119 

End of the War, 163 

English Idiom, 144 

Eosine, 54 

Examiners, 1 10 

' Exclusives,' 146 

Experimental Projector, 30 

Experimenting with Actors, 144 

EXPLOSION OF A MOTOR-CAR, 5 1 

EXPRESS TRAINS IN A RAILWAY -CUTTING, 42 

Extension of Plant, 89 

Facial Expression, 114 

' Fade-off' and ' Fade-on,' 122 

Fair-grounds, 71 

Fair-ground Proprietors, 44 

Faithfull, Geoffrey, 67, 84, 105, 151, 152, 134, 107 

Faithfull, Stanley, 67, 84, 105, 134, 154, 197 

FALLEN STAR, THE, 1 28 

FALSELY ACCUSED, 66 

FAR FROM THE MADDINO CROWD, l6a 

Fascination of ' The Films,' 38 

FATAL SNEEZE, THE, 68 

Father, My, 9, 10, 22 
Feature Films, 145, 147 

FELIX THE CAT, 1 89 

Felton, William, 127 

Film Burlesques a Film, 64 

Film Censor, 108 

Film Producer in Embryo, 15 

Film Producers, 65 

Pilm Production begins, 44 

Film-Stock, 77 

' Film Tags,' 161 

Final Parting, The, 200 

Financial Stringency, 10 

Fire, 86 

Fire risk, 34 

First Camera (Still), 28 

First Film Camera, 28 

First Film Ever, My, 39 

First Films, 43 

First homecoming, 10 

First love, 15 

First sight of films, 27 

First Studio, 73, 75 

Fitzhamon, Lewin, 66, 67, 76, 93 

Flanagan, Jim, 23 

Flanagan, Nita, 23 

Flea-pits, 71 

Fleming, Professor Ambrose, 26 

Fleuss, Skipper, 25 

Flicker Alley, 64, 65 

1 Flickerless ' Projection, 33, 38 

Flying Machines, 27 

1 Food Flashes,' 161 

Forbes-Robertson, Lady, 1 16 

Forbes-Robertson, Sir Johnston, 1 16 

Foreign Customers, 76 

Foreign Titles, 91 

FOREST ON THE HILL, 1 69 

Fountain Court, Temple, 134 
Four Hole Perforation, 47 
France, Thomas, 192 
Fuerst Bros., Dashwood House, 33 
Funeral of King Edward VII, 105 
' Funny ' Notions, 145 



204 



Friese-Greene, William, 27, 184 

Gardner, Shayle, 190, 191 
Gas Engine, 52 
Gas Engine, Vertical, 42 
Gaumont Company, 116 
Generators, 182 
George, David Lloyd, 100 
German Atrocities, 135 
German Submarine, 182 
Gilbey, Harry, 1 1 1 
Ginger Girls, 67 
Glasgow Office, 181 
Glass, Jena, 76 
Glazier's Diamond, 10 
Golden Hair, 15 
Governess Period, 19 

GRACE DARLING, 107 

Grandmama, 10 

GREAT SERVANT QUESTION, 64 

Griffith's Macbeth, 161 

Griffith, D. W., 55, 146, 161, 181 

Hale's Tours, 45 
Halliford-on-Thames, 119 
Hamble, 164 
Hamlet, 116 

Hand-coloured Film, 33 
Hand-painted Lantern Slides, 1 7, 36 
Harris, Thurston, 68 
Harvey, Sir John Martin, 118 
Hartsbourne Manor, 119 

HAWKEYE SWIMS THE CHANNEL, Il6 
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN, I 26 
HELEN OF FOUR OATES, I5O 
HENLEY REGATTA OF I9OO, 44 

Henson, Leslie, 168, 175 

Hepworth Manufacturing Co., Ltd., 65, 167 

Hepworth Picture Plays, Ltd., 168 

Hepworth-Pinero Boom, 161 

Hepworth Stock Company, 168, 200 

Herbert, Gwynne, 170, 173, 179 

Historical Negatives, 195 

Hitchcock, Alfred, 138 

Hodge, Rt. Hon. John, 163 

Holdsworth, Ethel, 150 

Home-painted Scenery, 52 

Honest Showmen, 44 

Hopson, Violet, 115, 125, 135, 168 

HOW IT FEELS TO BE RUN OVER, 55 

Hulcup, Jack and Claire, 106, 118 

Ideal Films, Ltd., 189 

Identical Twins, 171 

Illustrated Articles, 24 

Usington, 170 

Imperial Film Co., Ltd., 177 

Induction Coil, 16 

* Infected Film,' 78 

Inflated Wages and Salaries, 81 

Interchangeable Slide and Film, 31 

Interesting Theory, 157 

Intermittent Mechanism, 31 

Intermittent Movement, 18, 30 

INTOLERANCE, 163 

IN WOLF'S CLOTHING, I08 

IRIS, 131, 162 

Isle of Wight, 164 

Ketch ' Bluebird,' 165, 197 

kid, the, 184 

Kimberley, Paul, 155, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166, 

167, 176, 199 
Kinematograph Garden Party, 192 
Kinematograph Interviews, 103 
Kinematograph Manufacturers' Association, 108, 

109 
Kinematograph Projector, 30 
Kinetoscope, 29 
Kodak Stock, 78 

Laboratory, 42 



LADIES TORTOISE RACE, 42 

* Lady ' Journalist, 46 

LADY OF SHALOTT, I I I 

Lady on a Trapeze, 61 

Lamp, Automatic, 26, 29 

Lane, William, Death of, 86 

Lantern Lectures, 18 

Lantern Slides, 31 

Latent Image, 69 

Lathe for a Birthday Present, 28 

Lavish expenditure, 122 

Law, Bonar, 99, 103 

Law Courts, 80, 185 

Lawley, H. V., 53, 56 

Lecture, My, 196 

Lecture Syllabus Circulars, 16 

Lecture: ' The Story of the Films,' 44 

Lever and Nestle, 33, 34 

LILY IN THE ALLEY, l6o, 1 88 

Limelight, 17, 29, 36 
Lion, Leon M., 152 

LIONELLE HOWARD, 1 36, I 70 

Liquidation, 196 

Living Photographs, New Polytechnic, 29 

Lloyd, Harold, 189 

Local Showmanship, 31 

Long Continuous Scene, 151 

Lot's Road Power Station, 155 

Louis Levy's Music, 176 

Lul worth Cove, 106, 116, 117, 119, 154 

Lumiere, Louis, 29, 189 

Lumiere mechanism, 35 

Lumiere perforations, 47 

Lumiere printer, 44 

Luxurious Scenery, 181 

Lymington, 25 

MacAndrews, John, 1 70, 1 75 

Macbeth, 19 

McGuffie, John, 49 

Macintosh, Blanche, 25, 108, 113, 126, 128, 131, 

136, 139, 154, 170, 174 
Magic Lanterns, 17 
Maguire & Baucus, 38 
Make-up, 114 
Maiden, B. J., 18 
Manchester, 58 

MAN WHO STAYED AT HOME, 1 49, 1 62 

Marriage in the Snow, 60 

' Mary,' The, 25 

Mechanical Lantern Slides, 17 

Megaphone, 144 

Messter, 1 1 2 

Method of working, 143 

MIRACLE MAN, l8l 
MODERN WARSHIPS, 44 

Montefiore, Victor, 162 
More, Unity, 76 
Moreton Old Hall, 190 
morphia, 126 
Morris, Flora, 1 1 1 
Mortgages, 181 
Moul, Alfred, 36 
Mount Felix, Walton, 63 

MRS. ERRICKER'S REPUTATION, 1 77 

Multiple Scenes, 91 
Muranese Glass, 73 
Music for Silent Films, 31 

MUSICAL RIDE BY LADIES, 43 

Mutoscope, 46 

Mutoscope and Biograph Co., 45 

MY OLD DUTCH, 127 



National Council of Public Morals, 

National Screen Service, Ltd., 199 

Natural Scenery, 55 

Neame, Elwin, 1 1 1 

Negative Titles, 91 

Negatives, The Sale of, 196 

Newbould, A. E., 101 

News-reels Begin, 94 

New Studios, Proposed, 184 



161 



205 



News, Value of, 48 

NOTHING ELSE MATTERS, l8l 

Nursery Theatre, 18 

Oatlands Park Estate, 180 
O'Connor, T. P., 109 

OLD CURIOSITY SHOP, 1 28 

Old London, 159 

Old Newgate Prison, 159 

OLIVER TWIST, I I I 

ONCE ABOARD THE LUGGER, 1 70 

One Hole Perforation, 47 
One Long Scene, 151 
On ' Location,' 145 
' Open Market,' 146 
Operas, Comic, 198 
Operating Box, 1 7 
Oppenheim, E. Phillips, 80 
Outdoor Pictures, 144 

OUTRAGE, THE, 1 35 

Oxygen Gas, 22 

Painting on China, 1 1 
Painting Saints, 1 1 
Palace Theatre, 45 
' Panoraming,' 38 
Parfrey, C., 64 
Partnership Dissolved, 65 
Paul, R. W., 29, 36 
Paul's First Films, 29 
Paul's ' throw-outs,' 31, 33 
Peace. And Release! 164 
Pepper's Ghost, 18, 112 
Perforating Room, 75 
Perforations, 46 
Personal Assets, 195, 197 

PHANTOM RIDES, 44 

Phillpotts, Eden, 169 
' Phono-Film,' de Forrest, 193 
'Photographic Dealer,' 36, 109 
Photographic Lantern Slides, 12 
1 Photographic News,' The, 24, 30 
Photographic Quality, 76, 77 
Pickford, Mary, 163 

PICKWICK PAPERS, THE, I 1 3 

Pinero, Arthur, W., 140, 152, 162 

Pinewood Studios, 67 

Pin Frame, 38 

pipes of pan, 149, 171 

Placing the Camera, 144 

Planning Beforehand, 137 

Play House, Walton, 182 

PLUCKY LITTLE GIRL, 94 

Plumb, Hay, 106, 107, 112, 116, 119, 120, 

Polytechnic, The, 15 

Polytechnic Closes, 18, 22 

Polytechnic Stage, 18 

Polytechnic Theatre, 16 

1 Poor Gertie,' 127 

Portable Typewriter, 148 

Postponed Coronation, 62 

Potter, Gertie, 67 

Power House, 182, 197 

Powers, Tom, 126, 135, 159 

PREHISTORIC PEEPS, 69 

Preparation, 140 
Preservation of direction, 139 

PRESS ILLUSTRATED, 66 

Prestwich Camera, 28 
Pridelle, Claire, 106, 118 
Primitive Processing, 38 

PRINCES IN THE TOWER, 117 

Prince of Wales (King Edward VII), 26 
Printing and Developing Machine, 39, 197 

PROCESSION OF PRIZE CATTLE, 42 

Professional Actors, 66 
Propaganda Films, 155 
Proposed New Studios, 184 
Public Company, 186 

Quadruple Projector, 25 
Queen Alexandra, 131 

QUEEN VICTORIA'S FUNKRAL, 36 



QUEEN VICTORIA'S VISIT TO DUBLIN, 48 

Quick Drying Films, 54 
Quiribet, Gaston, 72, 160, 170 

Rachel's sin, 121 
1 Rain,' 33 
Rain, Artificial, 153 
Ramsgate Harbour, 25 
Rayner, Christine, 173 
Real Estate, 181 
Receiver Appointed, 187 
Reeves, Mrs., 131 
Reflex Cameras, 30 
Religion, 141 
Religious Phase, 19 
refugee, the, 163 
Repeat Scenes, 137 

RESCUED BY ROVER, 66, 73 

Revolving Stage, 194 
Ridicule, 103 
Rochester, N.Y., 79 
Rome, Stewart, 126, 136, 168 
Rosenthal, Joe, 39 
Ross-Hepworth Arc Lamp, 29 
' Rover ' dies, 1 1 2 

ROVER DRIVES A CAR, 93 

Royal Wedding, 26 
Royston, Harry, in, 135 
Rye-Field, The, 190 
' Rye ' in America, 196 

Sailing, 25, 164 

SAILING FRIGATES, 44 

Saints and Sinners, 1 1 
Sale of the Negatives, 196 

SALOME DANCING BEFORE HEROD, 34 

Saturday night — Bath night, 13 

Saunders, Billy, 116 

Savings, 24 

Scala Theatre, 112, 189, 193, 194 

Scene-Painting Dock, 183 

Scenic Title, 152 

School Chum, 23 

School Days, 22 

School Magazine, 24 

Scientific Lecturer, 14 

Scott-Brown, 68 

Searching the Ship-yards, 164 

Second Studio, 89, 91 

Selling Films, 47 

Sense of Humour, 100 

Sensitised Albumen Paper, 15 

Serial Films, 76 

Serpentine Dance, Loie Fuller's, 33 

sheba, 170 

Sheep Dog Actor, 150 

Sheffield, Reggie, 115, 117 

Ship and Car Sold, 197 

Showing Backwards, 33 

Showmanship, 33, 37 

Showmanship Changes, 70 

Shutter, 32 

Signals on Negatives, 91 

Sister Dorothy, 10, 19 

Sister Effie, 31 

Sisters and Brothers, My, 23 

Sixteen mm. Films, Value of, 124 

SLEEPING BEAUTY, I I I 

Slides and ' Movies ' combined, 30 
Sliding Platform, 31, 38 
Slow-Motion Photography, 33 
Slow Recovery, 89 
Small Salaries, 85 
' Smoothness,' 139 

SOLAR ECLIPSE, MAY I9OO, 48 

Soldiers' Language, 176 
Solla, Marie de, ill, 133 
' Sound Pictures,' 195 
Sowing the Rye, 190 

SOWING THE WIND, 1 54 

Special Presentation, 35, 193 
Spilt Milk, No worrying over, 201 



206 



4 Spoken * Titles, 91 

Stare Manager, 19 

Staggering Blow, 89 

Standing Order from America, 89 

Static Electricity, 16 

Statue into Lady, 178 

St. Bernard Dog, 129 

St. Paul's Crescent, 12, 13, 13 

Steadiness and Registration, 47 

Stereoplastics, 112 

Stereoscope, 108 

Still Camera, 10 

Stills, 93 

Stock Company, 1 1 1 

Storm Sequence, 31 

Story Content, 31 

STORY OF THE FILM, THE, 1 96 

Stow, Percy, 53. 72 
Stowe, Bert and Fred, 68 
Studio Debacle, 196 
Studio Floor Space, 196 
Studios, Six Bigger, 182, 184 
' Sturdee,' 1 29 
Successes and a Failure, 32 
Sunday Opening, 185 
' Sunflower,' 50 
Sussex Downs, 150 
Swedish Producers, 180 

SWEET LAVENDER, 1 34 

Swimming, 184 
Sylvani, Gladys, 107 
Synchroniser Catches Fire, 99 
Synchronisers, 97 
Synchronism by Phonograph, 171 

4 Take-up,' 33, 36 
* Talking Films,' 97 

TANSY, I50 
TARES, 163 

Tax Remission, Entertainment, 192 
Taylor, Alma, 76, 113, 115, 116, 120, 126, 

131. 132, 150, 153. 162, 167, 170, 175, 

185, 194 . , 
Tears, Artificial, 114 
'Tedwards,' 160 
Ten per cent. Interest, 187 
Terry, Ellen, 182 
Thames Ditton, 41 

THAMES PANORAMA, 43 

Theatrical ' Language,' 66 
Theatrical Phase, 18 
Thomas, A. D., 49, 58, 60 
Thousand -foot Camera, 45 
Three Children, 154 

THROUGH THREE REIGNS, 1 95, 1 96 

Thurston, Temple, 155, 163 

TILL DEATH DO US PART, 121 
TILLY AND THE COASTGUARDS, 117 

Tilly Girls, The, 67 

TILLY, THE TOMBOY, 76, 1 62 
TIME, THE GREAT HEALER, 1 26 
TINTED VENUS, THE, 1 78 

Tinting and Toning, 68, 79 
Titles, 36, 91 
Title-less Film, 188 

TOUCH OF A CHILD, 1 54 

Tracking Shots, 75 



129, 
179, 



Trade Benevolent Fund, 161 
Trade Council of Public Morals, 161 
Trade Employment Bureau, 162 
Trade Processing, 41 
Trade Show Applause, 131 
Trade Shows, 176 
Trade Unions, 163 
Tragedy in miniature, 158 

• Trailers,' 199 
Transatlantic Films, 144 
Travelling Exhibitors, 71 

TRELAWNEY OF THE WELLS, 1 52 

Tribute, 201 

Trimble, Larry, 113, 127, 128 

Turner, Florence, 113 

Ugly Scenery, 123 
Unbleached Calico, 19 
Unfinished Symphony, 191 

UNFIT; OR THE STRENGTH OF THE WEAK, IJg 

Unities, 139 
Unknown Artists, 81 
Unnecessary Staff, 83 
Unseen ' Rushes,' 138 
' Unseen World,' The, 64 
Unsteadiness, 46 

UPPER THAMES SCENICS, 44 

Urban, Charles, 32, 38 

Verities, 139 

Veterans, Annual Meeting, 192 

Vibart, Henry, 136 

VICAR OF WAKEFIELD, 1 26 

' Vignettes,' 123 

Village Dance, 60 

Vitagraph Company, The, 114 

• Vivace,' The, 25 
Vivaphone, 98, III, 120, 171 
Vivaphone Encores, 104 

Walker's Illusion, 18 
' Walking on,' 84 

• Walk on— or Walk off,' 84 
Walton Omnibus Horses, 68 
Walton-on-Thames, 1899, 41 
Walton Regatta, 106 
Walton Village Hall, 70 
War, 1914-1918, 128 

War Boom, The, 181 

War Subjects, Government, 136 

Wet-plate photography, 10 

Wey bridge, 180 

' Wheel of Life,' The, 16 

Wheldon Uncle, 25 

Whispering Doubts, 200 

White, Chrissie, 68, 76, 120, 126, 135, 167 

White, Jimmy, 193 

White, Tom, 67, 154, 167 

Whitton, John, 37 

Wicks, Monty, 30, 33, 38 

Wilson, Frank, 118 

' WIPING SOMETHING OFF THE SLATE,' 48 

' Wired for Sound,' 195 
Worcester, Alec, in, 112, 115 
Wrench's Shop, 38 
Wright, The Brothers, 27 
Wyndham, Sir Charles, 1 1 7 



207 



concluded from front flap] 

'Hep' remembers it all: the living photo- 
graphs of Paul and Lumiere; the first 
flickering at the 'Palace' and the 'Alhambra'; 
the original 'phantom rides' filmed from the 
front of a railway locomotive; 'Hale's 
Tours,' complete with rocking auditorium; 
the early news and trick films; the filming of 
Queen Victoria's funeral and the solar 
eclipse of 1900; the 'Vivaphone,' first 
attempt at 'talkies' — and he remembers his 
years, the good and the bad ones, the glories 
and the miseries, in a mood of quiet, mellow 
reflection. 



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